GAINESVILLE, Ga.—Weeks after his election as Georgia governor in 2010, Nathan Deal was pulled aside by a conservative state lawmaker with urgent business to discuss.
Rep. Jay Neal, a small-town pastor, said he had the seeds of a plan to cut Georgia's swelling prison population, which was costing taxpayers over $1 billion a year. The governor-elect didn't let Mr. Neal get far.
"The minute I mentioned what I wanted to do, he jumped in with what he wanted to do," Mr. Neal recalled. "And it turns out we were talking about the same thing."