For the second time in as many years the Georgia State government is playing havoc with one of the state’s most lucrative and high profile industries for what many on both sides of the issue regard as largely symbolic, morally-influenced legislation for which there are few winners and a great many losers.
In March 2016, Governor Nathan Deal vetoed what was tagged as the “Religious Freedom” act, a bill approved by both the state house and senate which effectively left it up to private citizens and businesses to deny services based on sexual orientation. Never a fan of the bill, Deal’s veto became easier to sign when multiple sports organizations including the NCAA, the NBA, and the NFL let it be known that if the bill became law, future high profile sporting events such as the Final Four, All-Star games, and the Super Bowl would go to other states. By not signing the bill, the Republican Deal became an unlikely hero of the LGBTQ community and a champion of the left, much to his own party’s chagrin.
Also included in the mix of detractors were the executives of several Hollywood studios who unofficially let it be known that they too could take their business elsewhere, despite Georgia’s strong tax incentives and a now firmly established base for hundreds of feature film and TV productions. Since 2009, Georgia has steadily grown to become one of the largest states in the union for TV and film production and is second globally only to the entire country of Canada.
In late March of 2019, the Georgia House voted 92-78 for the approval of H.B. 481 which was just one yea vote over the minimum required to pass. Also known as the “Heartbeat” bill, H.B. 481 — and if signed by Governor Brian Kemp by May 12 — would prohibit doctors from performing abortions in the state if a fetus heartbeat is detected during the required physical exam of women wishing to terminate their pregnancies. It is generally acknowledged that a heartbeat will develop at about the six week point of a pregnancy — a time frame pointed out by most pro-choice advocates when many women aren’t even aware that they are pregnant.
While no representatives from the sports world have yet chimed in regarding the bill, actress Alyssa Milano has and she’s not happy. Along with a signed petition of around 100 other celebrities (none of them A-listers), Milano — who spearheaded the revival of the #MeToo movement and the opposition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — is mistakenly thinking she has major sway when it comes to determining where studios will make their product. “Who’s the Boss” you might ask in this situation? It absolutely is not Milano but she certainly is a factor in whether or not Kemp will sign H.B. 481.
In office less than three months, this is probably not a fight Kemp was counting on so soon out of the gate but will likely be the biggest call of his first term. He’s on record as saying he will sign, is in favor of the bill, but in three full weeks afforded to do so he has not. With less than three weeks to go before zero hour without pen to paper, could that mean he’s considering the few pluses and many minuses his decision will have? In a word, yes. Kemp is also on record in stating he’s in favor of the tax incentives.
If Kemp is any kind of student of history (meaning — two years ago), he’ll follow Deal’s wise and pragmatic move and veto the bill. As hard as it might be for Kemp to do so, he has to realize shooting down the bill has nothing to do with his own moral or religious convictions but rather with the livelihood and wishes of the majority of his constituents.
In November 2018, Kemp defeated Democrat candidate Stacey Abrams by nary a whisker and many of the people who voted for him are indeed pro-choice, to one degree or another. Georgia is now a purple state but when it comes to the abortion issue, it’s mostly blue. This might be why no one of note or real importance in Hollywood has said anything publicly about the new bill. There’s no use in expending political capital if you can get the desired result without taking a stand, right?
In a never-perfect world, former real estate developer Kemp will hopefully realize winning a small battle in a war that’s not likely to end the way he’d like in his heart is neither good for his prospects for re-election or for the betterment of the over 92,000 Georgia residents currently employed by the film and TV industries. The dozen or so people 3,000 miles away calling all of the shots have the option of pulling up stakes and bolting quicker from Georgia than ancient Bedouins and it’s probably best not to test them.
If politics and the entertainment industry have anything in common it is perception. Intent and reality can appear to be the opposite of what you intended with just the slightest bit of doctored spin. If Brian Kemp has any chance of being re-elected in 2022 while also serving the best interests of the majority of people living and working in the state of Georgia, he really has no choice but to veto H.B. 481.
Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets and is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and he recently co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Over the last two decades, Mr. Clark has written over 3,500 movie reviews and film related articles for the Gwinnett Daily Post and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. critics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.