It’s the holiday season, a time when people are supposed to be having fun, going to parties, and bestowing good wishes on friends and family.
So why is Gov. Nathan Deal acting like the Grinch who stole Christmas? The governor has been getting into the middle of several issues recently where he’s acted like a real killjoy.
There’s the issue of casino gambling, for one.
Legislators have held several hearings on the legalization of casino gambling. They have hopes that the development of casino complexes would encourage more tourism and generate additional tax revenues that would put the HOPE college scholarship program on sounder financial footing.
A study committee was moving towards a recommendation on gambling legislation, but Deal has suddenly insinuated himself into the debate. He now says that casino gambling won’t necessarily enlarge the pot of money that lottery sales generate for HOPE scholarships, so he doesn’t think casinos should be allowed.
“I know HOPE has been such a successful program and people want to use that as a springboard,” Deal said. “But there’s only a limited amount of money that is available for people to spend on gaming activities, and our HOPE program is totally dependent on the success of the lottery in the state.”
Deal is also acting like a party pooper on the issue of cultivating medical marijuana.
He signed a bill this year that allows Georgians to use low-potency cannabis oil, a marijuana derivative, for the treatment of a limited number of medical conditions. The new law has been helpful to parents who previously had to relocate to Colorado to secure the substance for children who suffered from seizure disorders.
Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) is now leading a study committee that has been working on a regulatory framework under which cannabis oil could be produced within the state through the carefully licensed cultivation of marijuana.
Peake is not some dangerous radical fronting for drug dealers — he’s a conservative business owner who seems to have a genuine concern for families that depend on cannabis oil for medical treatments of their kids.
He is now up against a late-developing obstacle, however. Although one of Deal’s aides sat in on some of Peake’s committee hearings, Deal is now saying he doesn’t like the idea of Georgia growing its own.
“Commercially, I am told, that’s not a big enough demand base to be able to sustain a growing operation,” he said. “And the information I’ve received from the law enforcement component causes me to have more concerns than I did before.”
The General Assembly, of course, can still pass bills for operating casinos and growing cannabis locally, but if the governor maintains his opposition on these issues there could be a problem getting the measures enacted into law.
Deal is also threatening to shut down the state’s food stamp program because he’s angry at President Obama over the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S.
When Deal recently ordered state agencies not to process food stamp applications from Syrian refugees, federal officials quickly sent him a letter reminding the governor he couldn’t legally do that. The feds have also continued to resettle Syrian refugee families in Georgia.
Deal remains defiant, declaring that Georgia will just shut down its food stamp program and daring the federal government to sue him. “The state is willing to let the federal government run the program if they choose to do so,” he taunted.
There are all sorts of problems the governor is creating with his opposition stances, some of them more serious than others.
If you kill casino gambling, you would only disappoint a few casino developers. If you stop marijuana cultivation, you could cause inconveniences for maybe a few dozen families involved in cannabis oil treatments.
Shutting down the food stamp program, however, means thousands of Georgians would be unable to buy food and would go hungry at Christmas time. It’s hard to believe any elected official would want to be such a Grinch that he would risk the negative media coverage from that.
Here’s hoping that Deal comes to his senses and at least relents on the food stamp issue. Come on, governor — let’s get in the spirit of the holiday season.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.