While environmental issues touch on many, if not most, topics important to Coastal Georgia residents, they tend to get shuffled away in statewide political campaigns that tend to focus on broader policy concerns or wedge issues.
Gov. Nathan Deal expressed his reluctance to endorse the Trump administration’s plans to open up the vast majority of the United States’ coastline to testing and drilling when the plans were announced.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp said in July that he supported offshore drilling in general, but not off the Georgia coast — in an exchange regarding local topics recently with The News, he reiterated that position and included seismic testing.
“I support increasing our nation’s energy independence, but I do not support seismic testing or offshore drilling off the Georgia coast in order to do so,” Kemp said. “My priority as governor will be to protect our vibrant coastline, and ensure tourism and economic development and improve the lives of Georgians living in Brunswick and surrounding areas.”
Kemp also said he backs the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment, which is on the ballot for voters’ approval in November. If approved, it would allow up to 80 percent of current sales and use taxes on outdoor sporting goods to be earmarked for state land, water and wildlife protection. The Jekyll Island Authority board discussed in meetings earlier this year that Jekyll should be eligible for funds through this legislation, should voters give it the OK.
“As an avid outdoorsman, I believe it is vitally important to invest in the protection of our natural resources,” Kemp said. “The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment will provide $20 million — without raising taxes — to do just that and preserve one of our state’s great assets.”
Consultant and columnist Charlie Harper wrote in a September piece that criminal justice reform has been one of the most transformational aspects of Deal’s tenure as governor, and one that’s been widely applauded by people across the state’s political factions. Less than a month later, Sara Totonchi and Marissa McCall Dodson of the Southern Center for Human Rights authored a piece in Atlanta Magazine that also congratulated Deal on his work, and emphasized the work is not over.
While Deal’s approach — embraced by the General Assembly — differed from get-tough talk over past decades, Kemp said the way forward from here is indeed to pursue stronger policies in law enforcement.
“I have long supported Gov. Deal’s great successes in criminal justice reform,” Kemp said. “That’s why, building off his legacy, I have made public safety reform a top priority in my campaign and will be a top priority of my administration.
“I will work with law enforcement and local prosecutors to stop and dismantle criminal street gangs that are endangering our communities and driving serious problems in the drug trade, sex trafficking and violent crime.”
In terms of the ports, Kemp said he supports efforts to expand Brunswick’s roll-on, roll-off operation, which continues to be among the nation’s leaders.
“The Port of Brunswick is a critical piece of our transportation, trade and economic development infrastructure in Coastal Georgia,” Kemp said. “As governor, I’ll continue the work of Gov. Deal in developing pre-permitted land on Colonel’s Island to allow more auto processors to increase imports and exports in vehicles.
“The Georgia Ports Authority currently processes 605,000 automobiles — second only in the nation to Baltimore. We must continue to expand on that advantage by redeveloping formerly under-utilized bulk facilities to keep Georgia a leader in this field.”