Atlanta’s top business leaders are flexing their muscles ahead of the coming legislative session.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber, the driving force behind a failed regional transportation sales tax vote in 2012, is reviving a push for major infrastructure improvements. Some corporate giants are again opposing a “religious liberty” push they see as discriminatory. And business leaders want it known that metro Atlanta is welcome to foreigners and millennials.
“If something is going on in the public policy arena, we owe it to our members to take a stance, and hopefully in a very constructive and respectful way,” said Larry Gellerstedt, the Cousins Properties CEO and the Chamber’s incoming chairman.
The chamber has long been a bastion of fiscal conservatism, and Gov. Nathan Deal and other Republican leaders have enjoyed outspoken support from its leaders. It’s also been successful in changing the state’s flag and helping save Grady Memorial Hospital.
But the group’s clout has limits, especially in a statehouse where a tea party-influenced strain of conservatism has made it difficult to back anything that would raise new revenue.
Some GOP lawmakers say the Chamber misread the political dynamic when its powerful outgoing chairman, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson, said this week that Georgia shouldn’t be “chicken” about tackling tough solutions, and that the business community should “stand up” to legislative leaders who threaten Georgia’s image.
Others are quick to note the business community’s power at the Gold Dome took a hit with the resounding defeat of the 2012 special transportation sales tax. An odd coalition of environmentalists, the NAACP and tea party types rallied voters against the bill in metro Atlanta.