State Watch

GOP Georgia state legislators try to punish Delta after elections bill criticism

Georgia Republicans on Wednesday took a last-minute swipe at Delta Air Lines after the company’s chief executive criticized a massive measure overhauling voting rules in a state that narrowly voted for President Biden in 2020.

In the waning hours of the legislative session, the Georgia state House passed a bill to repeal a tax break on jet fuel, aimed squarely at one of the state’s largest companies and the largest operator of flights into and out of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

The measure came after Delta CEO Ed Bastian issued a memo criticizing the package of election reforms, which opponents have called a modern version of Jim Crow laws that blocked Black Americans from voting.

“Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a sweeping voting reform act that could make it harder for many Georgians, particularly those in our Black and Brown communities, to exercise their right to vote,” Bastian wrote. “After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.” 

House Speaker David Ralston (R) acknowledged early Thursday that the move was meant as retaliation.

“They like our public policy when we’re doing things that benefit them, and they reap the rewards of those benefits and then turn around and do this,” Ralston told reporters, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting. “As all of you know, I can’t resist a country boy line or two, you don’t feed a dog that bites your hand. You’ve got to keep that in mind.”

The provision did not pass the state Senate, so Delta will keep its tax break. 

Delta’s firmer stand against the legislation comes on the heels of public pressure aimed at mobilizing the business community in Georgia to oppose the new restrictions. Activists have threatened boycotts against Georgia-based companies like Coca-Cola and Home Depot if they do not publicly oppose the bill. 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who signed the election legislation last month, said Wednesday that the corporations publicly opposing the measure should stay out of politics.

“These business owners don’t live here and don’t know what our laws are,” Kemp said in an interview on CNBC. “Quite honestly, our laws aren’t as restrictive as the states where a lot of these businesses are residing. Perhaps they should focus on their own states.” 

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey called the new law “a step backwards.” In a letter released Wednesday, 72 Black executives, including the chief executives of Merck and M&T Bank, issued a letter calling on corporate leaders to defend the right to vote. 

Tags Airlines Brian Kemp corporate criticism Delta Georgia Georgia voting law Joe Biden State legislature travel

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