Is the Georgia GOP experiencing a shift in attitudes when it comes to controversial social issues?
A couple of weeks ago, Gov. Nathan Deal expressed a seeming willingness to consider an executive measure that would allow the use of a form of medical marijuana. This came after the failure of a bill on the legislature’s last day that would allow the use of cannabis oil to treat the symptoms of children who are suffering from intractable seizures.
Now, this past Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, as reported by Southern Political Report, made some surprising remarks.
At a Capitol Hill news conference on the subject of autism, Cagle said that Georgia parents shouldn’t have to fear prosecution if they use medical marijuana derivatives to treat their children who suffer from intractable seizures.
Cagle and the Senate were criticized by parents of children with seizures for refusing to adopt the medical marijuana legislation unless it included another bill, sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which mandated private insurance coverage for children with autism.
Cagle also apologized for the failure of the medical marijuana bill. “I’m sorry we weren’t able to do something that was impactful for” the children, he said.
But the mere fact that any form of medical marijuana made it as far as it did in a GOP-controlled legislature could signal a dramatic shift in Republican leadership attitudes. It’s a safe bet to make that such a bill would never have made it to a committee vote while Sonny Perdue was sitting in the governor’s mansion.
Now, as the city of Atlanta ponders what to do with Underground Atlanta, the old idea of turning the complex into a casino or gambling complex may resurface.
Recall that Deal, when he was running for governor in 2010, came under fire from conservatives after he said that the state should keep an “open mind” about casino gambling and other types of gaming.
Seven days later, Deal backtracked, saying, “I just don’t think you can gamble yourself out of a bad economy.”
And consider that Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed enjoy a close and rather successful working relationship, and Deal gets much higher marks on metro issues than his predecessor ever did. The two men are pragmatic political leaders who know that progress for the city and state come from working together, despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
I’m not saying the state should buy Underground and turn it into a casino. But Deal and his party could outflank Georgia Democrats by aggressively promoting the idea of a public-private partnership with the city and Underground’s new owners (whoever they turn out to be) for a gaming complex, and with the revenues going to, say, the HOPE Scholarship.
The Georgia GOP has already seemingly turned a corner on one social issue. Let’s see what’s next … if anything.