Georgia lawmakers made good on their promise to punish Delta Airlines, one of the largest employers in the state, for announcing that National Rifle Association (NRA) members would no longer get discounts.
State Republicans followed the lead of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle (R) who said he would “kill” any tax legislation benefiting the airline unless it restored its “relationship” with the NRA. Delta joined several other companies who pulled discounts for NRA members in the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.
On Thursday lawmakers approved a bill that would kill the $50 million sales tax break proposal on jet fuel that Delta was seeking, the New York Times reports. Both the state Senate and House are controlled by Republicans.
“I hope they are better at flying airplanes than timing PR announcements,” House Speaker David Ralson (R) said, according to NPR.
Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill into law, but did not appear to appreciate the manner in which Republicans punished the airline.
“Ours is a welcoming state—the epitome of ‘Southern Hospitality,’” Deal said, according to the Times. “We were not elected to give the late-night talk show hosts fodder for their monologues or to act with the type of immaturity that has caused so many in our society to have a cynical view of politics.”
Questions have been raised about the punitive nature of Republicans attacking Delta for their stance against NRA members. PolitiFact, a fact-checking website, said there is a possibility that First Amendment violations could be in play.
“Generally, the government may not punish anyone, much less a single company, for expressing itself (or trying to control the expression of its values),” Gerhardt told PolitiFact. “If Georgia punishes the airline for expression Georgia does not like, that is a First Amendment violation.”