State: Two economic recruits abandon Georgia over ‘religious liberty’ bill

AJC graphic

AJC graphic

An expanding list of corporate chieftains and Hollywood heavyweights have urged Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the controversial”religious liberty” legislation and threatened to pull investments from Georgia if he doesn’t. Now, though, we have evidence that the debate may have cost the state regardless of whether he signs the legislation.

An email exchange between the top aides to Deal and House Speaker David Ralston, a supporter of the measure, offered a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes fallout from the legislation since it passed more than a week ago.

In the March 19 email, obtained through an open records request, Ralston chief-of-staff Spiro Amburn forwarded a dispatch to Chris Riley, his counterpart in Deal’s office, that included a copy of talking points about House Bill 757 describing criticism of the measure as “exaggerations or misinformation.”

Within 30 minutes, Riley thanked Amburn for the note with this addendum:

“We received official notification this morning that Georgia was dropped from contention from two pending economic projects we had been working at gdec prior to any decision being made on the bill,” Riley wrote, referring to the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Both projects cited Hb 757 as why they were removing Georgia from consideration.”

Deal has not said whether he would support the legislation, championed by Ralston and other conservatives who want to strengthen legal protections for same-sex marriage opponents, but maligned by critics who say it amounts to legalized discrimination. The governor has until May 3 to decide.

Amburn, we should note, did not let Riley go unanswered. About 20 minutes later, he sent a one-line response.

You could almost say it was a dare.

“All the more reason for quick action one way or another.”

More: Georgia Legislature leaves Gov. Deal with big decisions on guns and ‘religious liberty’

More: The compromise within Georgia’s ‘religious liberty’ bill

MoreLearn more about the legislation here.

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