By now you have probably seen the reports in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer about the retribution dealt to Columbus citizens because of Senator Josh McKoon’s divisive and petty behavior in the Georgia General Assembly. Representative Richard Smith makes no bones about the fact that McKoon is solely responsible for a $10,000,000.00 loss of funding to Columbus State University and the National Infantry Museum. That tally doesn’t even take into account the financial loss to Georgia’s economy sustained during the divisive fight over McKoon’s discriminatory “religious liberty” legislation.
What is truly shocking is that McKoon has the nerve to cry foul over political retribution since he himself regularly engages in it. The AJC reported on McKoon’s attempt to seek retribution against businesses that opposed his discriminatory legislation. The truly sad and petty cause for this retribution seems to be a Twitter confrontation the McKoon engaged in with Marc Benioff, the CEO of SalesForce and vocal opponent of HB 757.
As the AJC reported:
“House Bill 904 returned to the legislation it started the day as: legal updates involving the state Department of Labor and and the Department of Revenue. It still required a vote in both the House and Senate for final passage before midnight, when the Legislature must adjourn for the year.”
“The temporary changes, however, seemed aimed at challenging the critics of a major “religious liberty” bill that passed a week ago, because it would have opened up private businesses to class-action lawsuits if they violated their own anti-discrimination policies.”“This gives teeth to what have essentially been aspirational employment policies,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, before the effort failed. “As much as we’ve heard from the corporate community about concerns for tolerance and inclusivity, we want to make sure those promises are enforceable promises.”“HB 904 began its life as a bill important to the Department of Labor, dealing with unemployment taxes. But when the House and Senate could not agree on one version, the bill ended up in a conference committee, made up of three negotiators from the House and three from the Senate.”“Within hours Thursday, they had all signed off on a new version that includes the original language from HB 904 and added new language saying it was ‘the intent of the General Assembly to protect consumers, legitimate business enterprises, and other members of the public that rely on such statements, pledges and policies.’”“It would have made it an “unfair or deceptive practice” for a company to violate its own non-discrimination policy or statement and allows employees to sue if they believe those policies were broken. Companies could face individual or class-action lawsuits for alleged violations.”
“McKoon was part of the conference committee that came up with the language. He has also led the battle for more than two years at the Capitol to pass protections for religious views.”
That wasn’t the only personal vendetta McKoon launched in the 2016 session. After being called out for meddling in the affairs of the Georgia House by Speaker Ralston’s staff attorney, Terry Chastain, McKoon went on a sustained FaceBook and Twitter rant that lasted for days. He paraded himself before the media and whined incessantly about how awful he was being treated. Ironically, all of that drama happened over the Pastor Protection Act, a needless piece of legislation that redundantly protected the right of clergy to refuse to perform any services that were not in compliance with their faith tradition. Clergy are already well-protected in that regard by the First Amendment and tons of precedent. McKoon opposed the bill because he thought it was drawing attention away from his incredibly dangerous and discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act and First Amendment Defense Act. It didn’t take him long, however, to figure out he could capitalize on his supporter’s ignorance about the protections of the First Amendment by tacking his legislation onto the Pastor Protection Act. So McKoon and his cronies cobbled together every piece of gay-hating discriminatory legislation they had ever dreamed of to form the Free Exercise Protection Act.
But McKoon still had that grudge against Speaker Ralston because Terry Chastain had been mean to him. Suddenly McKoon found an interest in term limiting the Speaker of the Georgia House, of which he is not even a member. He pulled the legislation when the Senate leadership balked. It seems certain he actually had little interest in limiting the Speaker, but was far more interested in poking a finger in Ralston’s eye. And while he was at it, he also proposed legislation that would strip the governor of his power to appoint a Senator from Georgia should an unexpected vacancy occur. Again, he almost immediately pulled the legislation, revealing he was less interested in the actual legislation than the message it sent to the elected official he was currently angry about.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg for this session. The story of him trying to subvert the will of our City Council and our School Board to allow Columbus citizens a chance to vote on the destructive property tax freeze by singlehandedly re-writing the referendum question is a story in and of itself. And I haven’t even touched on McKoon’s abrasive grandstanding from years past.
McKoon’s district includes just a few precincts on the northern edge of our city, yet we seem to bear the full brunt of the consequences of his actions. If the voters in 29 decide to return McKoon to the legislature next year, it will again be Columbus that pays for the certain resurrection of his zombie religious liberty legislation that he just won’t let die. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that McKoon will move out into the counties that seem dead set on giving up their representation in favor of McKoon’s shenanigans. I can’t help but believe that if Columbus had a choice about the city McKoon lists as his home, we would choose for it to be somewhere else. We just can’t afford much more of Josh McKoon.
Peace and Love, Yall