Georgia Gov. Kemp Attempts to Mollify Hollywood After Signing Anti-Abortion Law

After scuttling a planned May 22 visit to Hollywood studios in Los Angeles, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp the next day visited local production facilities to thank them for doing business in the Peach state.

Thanks to lucrative tax incentives, film and TV productions employ more than 5,000 people in Georgia, reportedly generating a $9.5 billion fiscal economic impact in 2017, including $2.7 billion in direct spending.

The state trailed only Canada as primary production home for the 100 top-grossing domestic films in 2017. It was home to more than 455 productions in 2018, according to the governor’s office.

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The PR tour was in response to growing backlash following Kemp’s May 7 signature of an anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” that prohibits a woman from terminating a pregnancy after six weeks — a time period before many women even know they’re pregnant.

Georgia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, which goes into effect in 2020, would also allow authorities to investigate women who miscarry.

While initial reaction in Hollywood was limited compared to a previous attempt by Georgia lawmakers to ban same-sex marriage, producers, directors and actors are beginning to speak up.

Actress/activist Alyssa Milano got the ball rolling on social media, delivering a letter to Kemp signed by 50 celebrities who vowed to boycott the state if the bill was signed into law.

Actor Jason Bateman said he would no longer work in the state, which is the production location (Lake Lanier) to his Netflix original series, “Ozark,” among others.

Producers of Amazon Prime Video original series “The Power” reportedly have stopped scouting the state for locations in response to the bill.

“We feel we have to stand up for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, and so while this is not a decision we have taken lightly, we feel strongly that it is the right one at this point in time,” Jane Featherstone and Naomi De Pear, said in a statement.

Kristen Wiig and her creative team behind Bridesmaids confirmed to CNN that production of her new comedy, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, had pulled out of Georgia in response to the bill.

CNN reported that Christine Vachon, CEO of Killer Films; David Simon, creator of “The Wire” and “The Deuce”; and Mark Duplass of Duplass Brothers Productions have all said they will not film in Georgia.

Separately, directors J.J. Abrams and Jordon Peele issued a statement in support of “women in Georgia,” adding that they would donate episodic fees of their new series, “Lovecraft Country,” to the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia, an organization seeking to reform state elections.

Kris Bagwell, who runs EUE Screen Gems in Atlanta, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he recently lost a Netflix movie that would have brought about 300 jobs.

“The passage of this law threatens to destroy a significant portion of 11 years of goodwill between Georgia and the national film and television production industry,” Bagwell said. “Isn’t the first rule of job creation ‘Don’t shoot the jobs you already created?’”

Kemp, in response, contends he’s keeping a campaign promise to stop abortions.

“We value and protect innocent life in Georgia — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk,” the governor told a recent GOP convention in Savannah.

Georgia Looking to Tax Netflix, Other Streaming Services

Georgia is looking at becoming only the fourth state in the country to tax digital entertainment services such as Netflix, Spotify, e-Books and video games.

The proposed 4% tax would add 52 cents, or $6.24 annually, to Netflix’s $12.99 monthly plan. Similar taxes are already on the books in Hawaii, Washington and Pennsylvania. A 9% “amusement services” tax drafted by Chicago in 2015 was upheld last summer by a local circuit court. The ruling is under appeal.

Georgia, which initiated sales taxes for online purchases on Jan. 1, seeks to use the tax revenue for the construction of high-speed Internet service in rural areas. About 16% of rural households in the state reportedly lack broadband access.

“This is not a new tax,” Jay Powell, a Republican representative from Camilla and author of the bill, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Technology is changing. The bottom line is, I’m getting movies, sports, news and all the things I’ve always gotten, but I’m getting them via a different medium, which is streaming services as opposed to cable TV.”

Traditional pay-TV and telecommunication services operating in Georgia currently pay fees ranging from 5% to 7%.

Newly-elected Republican Gov. Brian Kemp isn’t in favor of the tax. Perhaps mindful of Hollywood’s $1.5 billion annual spending in the state on movies and TV show productions (Netflix’s “Ozark” is filmed at Lake Lanier), Kemp, who championed President Trump’s corporate tax cut, said he would prefer alternative options.

“My first inclination is not to look at tax increases to pay for this,” Kemp told Georgia Public Broadcasting. “If we’re going to have some sort of offset, I’d be open to looking at that. I don’t know that raising taxes is the answer for me.”

Georgia’s 2019 legislative session ends in April.