Commentary: Harbin determined to drive industry out of Fayette

Marty Harbin, the cowboy-booted insurance merchant who represents most of Fayette County in the State Senate, was pulled over by the police last May in Tyrone for driving his large black truck with expired tags. Since the tags had been expired for more than 30 days, the police officer informed the Senator that by Georgia law, he’d have to impound the vehicle.

The police officer apparently didn’t realize what a busy, well-connected personage he’d happened to snag, and so the angry senator proceeded to fill him in, informing the officer that he was a State Senator, and that now he’d have to call the mayor and “the rest of them.” To handle it, presumably. He informed the officer that he, Senator Marty Harbin, pays his bills and isn’t stupid and that he’d just have to go pass a law now. So this wouldn’t happen to him again.

And so he did. Of course, whether the bill had merits or not, Harbin neglected to mention that the impetus for the bill was…personal. Where exactly had this bonnet-dwelling bee come from? Oh, I see. Usually, most of the Senator’s bills seem to revolve around the insurance industry. Except, of course, for that really infamous piece of legislation that he spearheaded, known disingenuously as “the Religious Freedom“ bill, that at its core makes discrimination against certain groups of people (most likely gay and lesbian) legally protected. It’s similar to bills passed in Indiana and North Carolina that have cost those respective states millions of dollars in revenue from numerous corporations, conventions, sporting events, and even filming projects.

In fact, much of what Harbin seems to champion in our names up at the Gold Dome is either designed to or has the short-sighted effect of causing industry to think twice about doing business in Georgia, and especially in Fayette County. When someone sees that (R-Tyrone) following Harbin’s name and then realizes he’s the sponsor of hateful, anti-gay legislation, don’t think that doesn’t cast aspersions upon our entire county. “Oh, this is where that RFRA guy is from. Yeah, maybe we need to look elsewhere.”

Harbin is an industry-killer in other ways. He voted no on tax incentives for the film industry in Georgia. He voted to allow organizations to deny same-sex couples adoption rights. A lot of film industry bigwigs cautioned that they’d likely move their projects to other states if such a bill was signed into law. Much of corporate America has a distaste for setting up shop in a region that officially condones intolerance and could then besmirch their reputations with the wider, more “enlightened” consumer base of America.

The Senator doesn’t even seem to take the positions of all his constituents into account when he picks up his lance in search of another windmill. When he joined in the call to punish Delta Airlines for their decision to end discount programs for NRA members (only ever used 13 times in total), he either forgot or didn’t care that his district is home to a large number of Delta employees and their families. Ohio and Alabama were quick to offer the airline a new home base, if they found Georgia too unwelcoming. Delta was trying to appear neutral in the sensitive gun debate now raging nationwide, yet Harbin was willing to kill yet another Fayette County jobs giant in order to further his own narrow self-interests.

And then he voted to deny tax incentives on new computer equipment for high-tech data centers. This short-sighted decision caused Douglasville to lose a new call center and estimates for what it cost the region in lost revenue is upwards of $2.5 billion. That’s money that will go elsewhere. It’s almost like the good senator would rather there not be any modern, 21st century industry in this region. His crusades have put into jeopardy the possible Georgia location of the new Amazon Headquarters, and he most likely had a hand in Facebook’s decision to locate elsewhere, depriving our county of new jobs and prestige.

It would be okay, I guess, if he’d just admit this was his plan, but he seems to insist upon insisting that he likes industry and supports business. The Chamber of Commerce begs to differ. That staunchly Republican entity is choosing to back Harbin’s Republican challenger in the upcoming primary. It’s not hard to see why.

Fayette County is constantly whining about the fact that we can’t seem to attract Millennials to live here; that our population is greying and without a transfusion of younger blood, so to speak, the tax base will eventually shrink (as it dies) and the pleasant life we enjoy here now will evaporate. Harbin is a big part of this equation. More and more, the young people of today don’t want to live in a place considered intolerant and backward, and Marty Harbin’s actions have done much to set us upon that very road. Let’s not have our future pulled over for expired tags.

Harbin’s latest political mailer claims that he got the expired tag law changed; “Marty’s bill changed state law” it reads. The catch there, whether you agree with the merits of the bill or not, is that it’s not true. Governor Nathan deal vetoed it just the other day. Another windmill victorious. The problem is, one day he might just take down one of those windmills. And all of us Fayette County folks with it.

 

Christopher Fairchild is the editor of Panacea magazine and Welcome to Fayette magazine, and works as a photographer and graphic designer for Fayette Newspapers.

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