The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting Thursday, According to an AJC story by Scott Trubey, Chamber officials announced key 2016 goals of expanding transit and opposing legislation that could be considered discriminatory.
With the passage of House Bill 170 in 2015, the state’s roads and bridges were able to be better funded, but the measure did not directly address transit. While many in Republican leadership have said they don’t want to alter HB 170 this session, Speaker David Ralston told those attending a recent briefing sponsored by PolicyBEST that transit cannot be an afterthought. One proposal from MARTA would use a half penny sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb counties and federal money to extend rail further north on Georgia 400, put light rail in the Clifton corridor, and better commuter transit along I-20. To do this, changes would be needed to legislation that authorized counties to join together for “Mini T-Splosts,” extending their life by 30 years so as to become bondable.
While the Chamber hasn’t gotten behind a specific plan, it will be paying attention and will work with those who are exploring transit options because it sees transit as key to future economic development.
The other issue of interest to the Chamber is keeping Atlanta’s reputation for non-discrimination. While the future of Senate Bill 129, the Georgia RFRA, is open, as it sits tabled in the House Judiciary Committee, other issues, including the state’s reluctance to accept refugees is on the Chamber’s radar. From the AJC story:
To attract to people to this city, as great as this city is, we have to have a completely inclusive place where everybody is welcome,” said incoming chamber Chairman and SunTrust executive Jenner Wood. “That benefits not only the citizens of Georgia but it benefits the businesses that needs the workers. We won’t tolerate any discrimination. We want to be known as being inclusive.”
Asked about recent debate over Syrian refugees in Georgia and comments by Trump on Muslim travel bans, Gellerstedt said: “Anything that discriminates against any group, we are not going to be for. That will be (our) base and there won’t be waffling on that.”
A group of lawmakers that met with the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association on Wednesday were not receptive to passing a religious freedom bill without anti-discrimination provisions. Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert and Judiciary Committee member Rep. Beth Beskin said they wanted discrimination protection included, while House Rules Committee vice-Chairman Brett Harrell said he didn’t want the bill to come to a vote.