Will Nathan Deal’s veto of ‘religious liberty’ bill still hurt Georgia’s entertainment business?

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By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Monday, March 28, 2016

The growing TV and film business in Georgia breathed a sigh of relief when Gov. Nathan Deal this morning said he would veto the “religious liberty” bill.

Last week, virtually every major film and TV production company urged him to veto it. Some like Disney and Netflix flat out threatened to pull out of the state if he signed it.

Deal’s support of generous tax credits  to the industry in 2008 has propelled the state to the third busiest in the country behind only California and New York.

The details behind the bill itself from Jim Galloway of Political Insider.

Ga lawmakers call for override

Ric Reitz, a local actor who helped design the credits, said he is relieved and gratified Deal made this move.

“Will it deter people in the future?” he said. “I hope not. I think this should strengthen everyone’s conviction in the state. It has shown what a great leader he is. He makes a decision that leads. People are anxious, myself included. We’ve love to have a quick resolution. Not everything is quickly resolved. It was becoming such a firestorm, he had to speak sooner than later.”

Reitz said Deal showed good judgment waiting until the General Assembly was over and Easter had ended to make this call.

If the state legislature wants to overturn the veto, both the House and Senate would have to reach a two-third vote and be willing to come back for a special session. Sixty percent of the House and Senate would have to support a return to session.

Disney, which has a huge investment in Georgia with its Marvel movies at Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville, was one of the first studios to send out a statement:“We applaud Governor Deal for making the right decision on this piece of legislation and look forward to continuing our film production in Georgia.”

Josh Berman, who has two projects in Atlanta including an ABC pilot and a VH1 drama series and used Peachtree City as the home base for his Lifetime show “Drop Dead Diva” for six years, is confident Georgia won’t be adversely affected by this firestorm.

“I think everything will go back to the way it was,” he said.

Some local entertainment representatives are remaining quiet, afraid of “payback” from the state legislature, which has been supportive of the tax credits to date but could very easily turn on them as has happened in other states.

Indeed, a group backed by the Koch brothers is targeting corporate tax breaks like this one, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Americans for Prosperity has been part of successful efforts to push back movie industry credits in some states, but failed in recent years to get anywhere in Georgia.

A lobbyist in Atlanta said the group plans to build legislative and grass-roots support this year, and then back specific legislation next year.

More reaction to come .


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