EthanBenn, Staff Reporter
In the wake of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Fla., Delta Airlines began to reconsider its relationship with the National Rifle Association of America (as have other companies in various sectors). Ultimately, Delta “rescinded a one-time group travel discount for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and asked the organization to remove [their] name and logo from their website.” This prompted Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly to pull a tax exemption for jet fuel directed towards the airline.
Compared to fiery condemnations from elected officials, student protesters and celebrities, Delta’s handling of its relationship with the NRA could be described as being less dramatic. In fact, the rescinding of the discount came as part of a renewed push to “remain neutral” and stay away from such a divisive issue like gun control – Delta CEO Ed Bastian voiced that “we are supporters of the 2nd Amendment, just as we embrace the entire Constitution of the United States.” While it appears that Delta intends to refrain from taking either side in this debate, Casey Cagle, the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, was quick to retaliate.
“I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA. Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” Cagle tweeted soon after Delta announced its new policy toward the NRA and its members. Because Cagle holds an incredibly important position in the Georgia legislature, his statement was of particular importance – without Cagle’s approval, the tax cut for fuel aimed at Delta would be doomed to fail.
As Republicans scrambled to strip the provision that would have given the airline millions of dollars, the public and other state officials were quick to comment on Cagle’s tweet, accusing him of extortion and offering Delta the chance to relocate its headquarters out of Atlanta. “@Delta, if Georgia politicians disagree with your stand against gun violence, we invite you to move your headquarters to New York,” tweeted the Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo was not the only governor to make such a plea though it is unlikely that Delta would move away from its base at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.
Delta declined to shift its operations to another state, and the Georgia General Assembly moved to strike the $50 million dollar exemption for jet fuel from a larger tax bill, following up on Cagle’s threat. The Republican-led Senate voted for the new version of the exemptions, and the Republican House overwhelmingly agreed to approve the jet fuel free version after having already voted for the original bill.
Though Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed the exemptions into law, he stressed the importance of “Southern Hospitality” in how Georgia deals with private companies, as well as cautioning against poorly thought out policies and political maneuvering. Several Democratic representatives raised points that companies such as Amazon might avoid Georgia in the wake of this decision, further stressing the importance of this issue.