ATLANTA - For the second time in the past two weeks, Georgia’s two largest business organizations are asking the General Assembly to pass a hate-crimes bill when the 2020 legislative session resumes next week.
Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and Hala Moddelmog, Clark’s counterpart at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, have joined executives from more than 60 companies in supporting the legislation.
The Georgia House of Representatives passed the bill last year in a bipartisan vote, and legislative leaders have vowed to push it through the state Senate and on to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk this year.
“Momentum is growing for Georgia to join the other 45 states that already have these laws on the books,” Clark and Moddelmog wrote in a joint statement issued Monday. “When the Georgia General Assembly reconvenes in June, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber urge swift passage of hate-crimes legislation that aligns our state’s laws with our values.”
The two chamber leaders endorsed the hate crimes bill late last month after the arrests of three white men in Glynn County in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, but before the death of another black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis touched off a wave of protests across the country.
High-profile Georgia-based businesses joining the two chambers in Monday’s letter include Delta Air Lines Inc., The Home Depot Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Georgia Power Co. and UPS Inc.
This isn’t the first time the state’s business community has gotten involved in civil rights legislation percolating under the Gold Dome. Business groups have fought for years against the passage of religious liberty legislation pushed by social conservatives opponents have argued would let companies discriminate against gays and lesbians, including a 2016 bill that was vetoed by then-Gov. Nathan Deal.
The hate-crimes bill, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, would impose additional penalties on criminal defendants if it determined their victim was chosen based on his or her “race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.”
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol next Monday, three months after the coronavirus pandemic forced a suspension of this year’s session.