You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

OPINION: Sometimes, leadership means knowing when to say no


Here in the United States, the word “governor’ primarily means the elected head of a state, as in Nathan Deal, governor of Georgia, now serving his sixth year in office. But it also has a secondary meaning:

“Governor: a device automatically regulating the supply of fuel, steam, or water to a machine, ensuring uniform motion or limiting speed.”

That too describes the role played by Deal in Georgia politics. On issues from taxation to guns to social policy, Deal has served as a valuable governor — a check on excessive speed, a regulating device — on some of the more dangerous and destructive instincts of his party. Look at neighboring states — Alabama, North Carolina and Florida, for example — and you’ll see governors unable or unwilling to play that role, and you’ll see states that have suffered for it.

In other states such as Louisiana and Kansas, you will find Republican governors with no personal, internal governors, elected leaders such as Bobby Jindal and Sam Brownback whose unchecked ideological fervor and political ambition have pushed their states into near-bankruptcy. Deal, to his credit, has steadfastly avoided such errors himself and guided others away as well.

The most recent example is Deal’s intervention into House Bill 159, intended by its original author to update and clarify Georgia law regarding adoption. Last week, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill was hijacked to serve another purpose altogether. Committee members added language to the bill that would let private adoption agencies, working under state contract, refuse to allow adoption by caring, fully qualified same-sex parents if the private agency believes such adoptions are inappropriate or immoral.

In other words, the new version of HB 159 would legalize anti-gay discrimination carried out with taxpayer dollars.

In some environments, it would be easy for such a bill to gather political momentum and head toward passage, setting off a series of unpredictable consequences that include the likely loss of federal dollars. But in his roles as governor in both the political and non-political sense, Deal has stepped in quickly, mildly noting that “I would hope they would reconsider the addition to this language that could put the whole bill in jeopardy.”

That’s not a blunt veto threat, but it sends the appropriate message to Senate leaders, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

In his message, Deal cited the potential loss of federal funds should the bill pass, but personal beliefs about fairness may also factor into his position; he may also be motivated by a practical fear of HB 159 becoming to Georgia what the “religious freedom” bill became to Indiana and the “bathroom bill” became to North Carolina, making those states appear petty and punitive and thus inhospitable places for corporate investment. Given the national press that the HB 159 bill has already attracted, that is a very real danger.

With two years remaining in his final term, in some eyes Deal has yet to cement what some might call a legacy. He did manage passage of a critically important transportation-finance measure, but he did so by punting on the question of state support for mass transit. Last year, voters wisely rejected his effort to take power from local elected school boards and place it unchecked in the governor’s office.

But these days, it’s easy to undervalue leadership that recognizes trouble and knows enough to steer things in a wiser, more decent direction.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: A road map for dealing with campus radicals

Jonathan Haidt is a member of one of America’s smallest fraternities — m those who attempt to see beyond their own prejudices. In the left-leaning Chronicle of Higher Education, he notes that “intimidation is the new normal” on college campuses. The examples are well-known: The shout-down/shutdown of Heather Mac Donald at Claremont...
Opinion: The day Bill O’Reilly got fired

On the day Bill O’Reilly was fired, Serena Williams announced she was 20 weeks pregnant. Fans did the math and concluded Williams must have had a baby on board in January when she won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title in dominating fashion. That, said TV tennis analyst Pam Shriver, made Williams’ win “even more spectacular.&rdquo...
Opinion: Alas, the mortgage interest deduction cannot be pried away

WASHINGTON — Attempting comprehensive tax reform is like trying to tug many bones from the clamped jaws of many mastiffs. Every provision of the code — now approaching 4 million words — was put there to placate a clamorous faction, or to create a grateful group that will fund its congressional defenders. Still, Washington will take...
As members flee, Georgia PTA risks status, stability
As members flee, Georgia PTA risks status, stability

On probation for a coup that ousted a revered president and under siege from a growing revolt in the ranks, the leadership of the Georgia PTA is burrowing deeper into its bunker. When the embattled board emerges and takes stock, it’s likely to find a changed landscape. Dozens of PTAs have decided to initiate the complicated process of dissolving...
Opinion: Why? I’ll tell you why!

Because I like it, because it’s Friday and because I’m going out for music and dancing tonight ….
More Stories