Race for Amazon HQ could slap a lid on Confederate, ‘religious liberty’ fights

In this 2017 file photo, construction continues on three large, glass-covered domes as part of an expansion of the Amazon.com campus in downtown Seattle. Amazon said Thursday that it will spend more than $5 billion to build another headquarters in North America to house as many as 50,000 employees. AP/Elaine Thompson

Believe it or not, chances of a General Assembly implosion next January over Confederate symbolism and “religious liberty” legislation may have just gotten much smaller. From the AJC’s Scott Trubey:

E-commerce giant Amazon said Thursday it’s in the market to build a second North American headquarters, a massive complex the company says one day could hold 50,000 jobs.

Amazon, in a request for proposals on its website, said it wants its “HQ2” to be the “equal” of its Seattle base of operations, which currently consists of 33 buildings covering more than 8 million square feet of office space.

Trubey reports that Atlanta and Georgia are sure to compete for what could be the Holy Grail of economic development, touting the region’s talent base, research universities such as Georgia Tech – never mind that new cybersecurity hub that’s springing up around Augusta.

Like Trubey, Bloomberg names Atlanta as a likely competitor. But it also asks this:

Will flirtations with anti-gay laws under a guise of “religious liberty” (and anti-trans “bathroom bills”) hurt the causes of the large metro areas in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas?

But consider that an LGBT alliance with business interests – in particular, the new movie and TV industry in Georgia – is largely responsible for killing past attempts within the state Capitol to give legal cover to conservatives uncomfortable with gay marriage.

If Georgia makes a serious bid for a second Amazon headquarters, and is still in the running come January and February, look for Gov. Nathan Deal and Republican leadership in the General Assembly to shut down any attempt at “religious liberty” legislation.

That goes double for arguments over Confederate symbolism. With one suggestion: The city of Atlanta may want to tinker with that street named Confederate Avenue. Amazon Avenue, perhaps?

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On a similar topic: The Trump administration on Thursday sided with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, according to the Washington Post. The U.S. Justice Department filed its brief on behalf of baker Jack Phillips, who was found to have violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to create a cake for the marriage of a same-sex couple in 2012.

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From Politico.com: On the same day that President Donald Trump’s namesake testified before congressional investigators, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he has not picked up any indication that either Trump or the White House is seeking to interfere with the ongoing probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

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The foreign policy split over Russia between Congress and President Trump, caused in large part by the investigation into Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential contest, is the topic of a Washington Post op-ed by former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and former U.S. energy secretary Ernest Moniz. A taste:

This is a serious challenge for our governments and a danger to the people of both nations and indeed the world. Getting to safer ground requires urgent action to establish close cooperation between the Trump administration and Congress — by creating a new bipartisan liaison group modeled on one established in the 1980s.

Congress has legislated its outrage over Russia’s interference in our election and its actions in Ukraine. Congress has also made clear its distrust of the president’s handling of relations with Moscow. Legislation passed overwhelmingly in both houses (and reluctantly signed by President Trump) codifies existing sanctions, enacts new ones, and prevents the president from altering or removing the sanctions without congressional review and — for all intents and purposes — approval. This creates a joint responsibility between the executive and legislative branches. The challenge is to make it work to avoid a further downward spiral in U.S.-Russia relations.

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State Sen. Josh McKoon has raised an interesting point as Florida evacuees fleeing Hurricane Irma pack Georgia’s highways and hotel rooms.  On Twitter, McKoon, a Republican candidate for Georgia secretary of state, questioned whether the state can waive a $5 per night fee on hotel rooms imposed in 2015 as part of a broader transportation funding package. We asked Gov. Nathan Deal’s office if that were a possibility and haven’t heard back. But it appears the legislation was written without a mechanism to waive those fees.

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Former state Sen. Hunter Hill, a GOP candidate for governor, has slapped a “bad joke” label on a non-binding resolution passed by Atlanta’s City Council that calls on local police to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. “If I’m elected governor,” he said via Twitter, “it will never see the light of day.”

The resolution, which passed 9-1 on Tuesday following Donald Trump’s DACA decision, has no teeth: It urges — though it doesn’t require — city police to ignore federal requests known as “administrative immigration warrants” that often lead to deportations.

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Here’s a sentence we never expected to write: According to the Washington Post, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, along with Breitbart News chairman and former White House adviser Steve Bannon, are discussing the possibility returning Newt Gingrich to the House speakership. The leader of the chamber doesn’t have to be a member of Congress.

But chances of that happening are slim to none, and so the spouse of the future U.S. ambassador to the Vatican is exploring a return to academia. Of a sort.

Gingrich has launched a new online video history course “designed to counter politically correct revisionism and the left’s increasing stranglehold on education,” according to Breitbart.com:

The six announced episodes are “Defending America from the Multicultural Disaster,” “Defending a Faith-Based America from the Secular, Atheist Tyranny of the Left,” “Defending Work as the Basis of Freedom and Opportunity from the Dependency, Welfare Bureaucratic State Tyranny of the Left,” “Defending Free Speech from Leftwing Censors and Thought Police,” “Defending Americans’ Right to Protect Themselves from the Gun Confiscation, Helpless Citizen model of the Dictatorial Left,”and “Defending ‘We the People’ From Oppressive, Self-Serving Bureaucrats.” Each video will be accompanied by a study guide.

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Charges have been dropped against a reporter who was arrested for questioning health Secretary Tom Price in West Virginia this spring. The New York Times reports that local officials determined the reporter’s behavior wasn’t unlawful. Dan Heyman of Public News Service had faced a misdemeanor charge of “willful disruption of governmental process” for aggressively questioning the former Georgia lawmaker about the House’s health care bill.

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He personally doesn’t like it, but U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said he sees an upside to the Hurricane Harvey/government spending/debt ceiling deal that President Donald Trump cut with Democrats: “The Democrats did not want to participate in health care reform or CHOICE Act or Dodd-Frank reform. But now maybe this is opening the door that we can bring some people over because they’re starting to see some bipartisan action on this and we’re going to need that going forward.”

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Longtime consultant Myesha Good and former state lawmaker LaDawn “LBJ” Jones have formed what they’re calling Atlanta’s first African-American, female-run political shop. They start with a cool name: PolitaCoach, LLC.

 

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