Business

Metro Atlanta Chamber: Opposing Religious Freedom Bills A Priority

Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the Intercontinental Exchange, New York Stock Exchange and 2017 chair-elect of the Metro Atlanta Chamber spoke about the importance of opposing discriminatory bills at the chambers annual meeting on Wednesday.
Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the Intercontinental Exchange, New York Stock Exchange and 2017 chair-elect of the Metro Atlanta Chamber spoke about the importance of opposing discriminatory bills at the chambers annual meeting on Wednesday.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

 

The Metro Atlanta Chamber said it will keep fighting any religious freedom legislation that gets introduced in Georgia’s Legislature next year.

SunTrust Bank executive vice president and Metro Atlanta Chamber chair Jenner Wood said even the discussion of religious liberty bills like the one Governor Nathan Deal vetoed earlier this year, is not healthy for business.

“We are not supportive of any bill that in any way would discriminate in any way against any person,” Wood said. “We’ve said that for three years now.”

Religious Freedom Bills

Wood said preventing bills perceived to be discriminatory will continue to be a top priority for the Metro Atlanta Chamber next year.

“There are lots of companies that were very close to going to Charlotte that are not going to Charlotte and we know that for a fact,” Wood said. “It has had a really damaging impact on the state of North Carolina and I think that a lot of people that represent their constituents here in Georgia have seen that and they don’t want the same thing to happen.”

Wood said North Carolina’s passage of two bills caused major sporting events and businesses to pull out of the state. One bill was a religious freedom measure, the other was the “bathroom bill” that requires people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth.

Georgia lawmakers have sponsored religious liberty bills in the last three Georgia General Assembly sessions. Republican leaders have said some form of the bill will be back in 2017.

“As a global recruiter, having a really diverse workforce allows me to try to attract the best and brightest people to Atlanta so you don’t want any kind of overhang that they’re not welcome here,” said Jeff Sprecher, founder of the Intercontinental Exchange and the 2017 MAC Chair-elect.

Immigration

Sprecher also said his company, which owns the New York Stock Exchange, is able to place people in other global offices when they’re unable to bring talent to the United States, but he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will make legal immigration easier.

“As a business operator, it’s important for me that we have a very, very good legal immigration system that allows this country to attract the best people,” Sprecher said. “So while there’s a lot of focus on illegal immigration, I hope that the Trump administration will focus on legal immigration and pathways for this country to benefit from the hard work of others.”

Public Transit

The Metro Atlanta Chamber also said another major priority next year will be to lobby for more public transit expansion.

Katie Kirkpatrick, chief policy officer of the Metro Atlanta Chamber said it will look at how it can help with expanding transit in north Fulton County, working with state Senator Brandon Beech.

After that, she said they would like to see how it can help expand transit to the East.

“Further into DeKalb County, perhaps connect the CDC and Emory into the downtown area of Atlanta, so I think those are logical next steps for transit,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick said the Chamber also hopes to find a way to connect all transit systems in the 29-county area it serves.

The Chamber also unveiled its new logo, featuring 29 feathers for each county it serves, at its annual meeting Wednesday.

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