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The Jolt: Brian Kemp willing to ‘work with’ lawmakers to trim film/TV incentives in Georgia

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tours Pinewood Studios on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. The governor met with students at the Georgia Film Academy and spoke with film industry leaders in Fayetteville, Ga. (Handout from the office of Govenor Kemp)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tours Pinewood Studios on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. The governor met with students at the Georgia Film Academy and spoke with film industry leaders in Fayetteville, Ga. (Handout from the office of Govenor Kemp)

Gov. Nathan Deal treated the tax credits awarded to film and TV production companies that do business in Geogia as a prized legislative accomplishment, routinely warning lawmakers not to even consider a threat to the program.

As some lawmakers rumble about revisiting the costly program, his successor is taking a different approach. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gov. Brian Kemp refused to rule out legislation that could seek changes with the lucrative credits, which cost the state an estimated $870 million in revenue in 2019.

“Legislators passed the film tax credit to start with, so if there are some that want to review it or have reservations about it or want to add to it, this certainly is their prerogative and we'll be glad to work with them,” he said.

The governor was responding to buzz about a Georgia Tech study on the impact of the film tax credit that's already set tongues wagging under the Gold Dome. State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, is one of several influential Republicans looking at reducing the credits this year to avoid steeper budget cuts.

In the interview, Kemp said he would “hold judgment” on those ideas until the report is released. And he chuckled at the idea of pre-emptively telling Tippins or other Republicans to steer clear of the credits.

“Well, I don't know if I told them that, if they would listen,” he said, adding. “I guess probably said more than I needed to have how supportive I’ve been of the industry. It’s kind of hard to weigh in on something I haven’t seen. I’ve been around long enough to know there’s agenda-driven reports.”

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Published earlier this morning: Governor Kemp also told the AJC that his leading priorities include a call for tougher penalties for violent offenders, more resources to crack down on gangs and changes in state law to ease the adoption of foster children.

Kemp sidestepped questions about whether he’d pursue culture-war issues that could energize conservatives but alienate liberals and moderate voters in 2020.

“My commitments are the same. My campaign promises are the same. Nothing has changed. But you have to have a certain amount of votes to be able to get something passed, and people’s agendas are different,” he said.

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A similar sit-down by Governor Kemp with Aleks Gilbert of the Marietta Daily Journal included this exchange:

MDJ: The suburbs are becoming purple —

Kemp: In your opinion —

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As mentioned above, Governor Kemp continues to emphasize gang violence as an election-year target. In an op-ed published in the Rome News-Tribune over the weekend, he again declared Georgia's gang population to be in the neighborhood of 71,000.

We've reported before that the number deserves skepticism. Seventy-one thousand is more than six times the size of the Georgia National Guard, and roughly the size of the army that Robert E. Lee brought to Gettysburg.

The FBI has abandoned state-by-state gang population counts since 2011, when it put the number of gang-bangers in Georgia somewhere between 19,000 and 39,000. That gauntlet was picked up by the 1,400-member Georgia Gang Investigators Association in 2018, which produced the 71,000 figure. If that’s the case, then gang activity either tripled or -- at best -- nearly doubled during the Nathan Deal administration.

Nearly 40 percent of the 71,000 are already behind bars, the GGIA has conceded.

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Kelly Loeffler is to be sworn in this afternoon by Vice President Mike Pence as the first woman to serve as a Georgia senator in D.C. That's an important distinction between her and Rebecca Latimer Felton, who technically is Georgia's first female senator. Felton served only 24 hours in a political stunt orchestrated in 1922 by Georgia Gov. Thomas Hardwick. The Senate was not in session at the time.

Catch the 2020 proceedings on C-SPAN around 5 p.m. The ceremony should last just a few minutes. Also, we expect to learn more about some initial staff hires for Loeffler’s offices in Washington and Georgia and where she may be setting up shop.

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Soon-to-be-Senator Loeffler spoke at the Cobb County GOP monthly breakfast on Saturday. Worth noting, according to the Marietta Daily Journal: The sold-out event was ticketed, which presumably allowed dissidents to be screened out. Loeffler spoke for about five minutes, but did not take questions from the audience.

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Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins continues mull a U.S. Senate run for the seat that Kelly Loeffler will occupy.

Asked on Fox News whether he could challenge the financial executive in the free-for-all November election -- remember, there’s no primary to hash out nominees, the Gainesville Republican said he would wait until after the impeachment process plays out in the Senate to decide.

"The people have been asking me about it. I've been listening to the people of Georgia," he told the network on Sunday. "And we are going to continue to look and make our decision soon."

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The only announced Democrat for the Loeffler seat is Matt Lieberman, son of the former U.S. senator from Connecticut -- who once was a Democrat and now considers himself an independent.

Georgia pundit Erick Erickson posted a Twitter observation this morning, pointing to Joe Lieberman's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece on last week's U.S. assassination of an Iranian general on Iraqi soil:

Joe Lieberman defends Trump on Soleimani. Lieberman's son is running as a progressive Senate candidate in GA. Gonna be interesting to see where he stands on his dad's op-ed.

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But back to U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who this weekend again surfaced as one of President Donald Trump's chief defenders -- but on foreign policy rather than impeachment.

While Democrats in the House and Senate consider moves to thwart further U.S. military action against Iran, Collins praised the Trump-approved operation that led to the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside of the Baghdad airport in Iraq.

Citing his own military service, Collins told Fox News he is proud of Trump's decision. And on social media he blasted Democrats who now question the president's strategy.

"House Democrats broke every rule that stood in their way during their partisan impeachment charade, but now they're complaining @realDonaldTrump didn't ask their permission before taking out a leading terrorist who stole countless American lives?" Collins wrote on Twitter.

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ICYMI: With the hiring of several operatives, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has become the first Democratic presidential hopeful to establish a significant paid campaign operation in Georgia.

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Bloomberg reports that the economies of nine states are expected to slide into contraction within six months -- the most since the financial crisis ended more than a decade ago. The report cites projections from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia:

West Virginia's economy is forecast to shrink the most, while a decline in neighboring Pennsylvania is anticipated to be the most severe since May 2009 during the tail-end of the Great Recession, figures released this week show. A faltering economic outlook in coming months would likely cast a shadow over President Donald Trump's re-election bid.

Georgia isn’t among the nine in decline, though budget cuts will be the primary focus of a state Legislature that convenes next Monday.

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Andy Miller of Georgia Health News reports that Piedmont Healthcare and its 11 hospitals are leaving the Georgia Hospital Association -- "a major blow to the finances and prestige of the health industry group."

A portion of a statement from GHA President and CEO Earl Rogers:

Mr. Miller's assertion that the loss of Piedmont's dues is a "major blow" to GHA's finances is far from accurate and provides no source or reference for his inexplicable statement. The fact is, GHA's member dues account for just over one quarter of our total revenue. GHA is well positioned to continue providing crucial services our hospital members have come to expect, including advocacy, insurance and legal information, data analysis, clinical education, and community board training, especially to our small, rural hospitals.

We are disappointed that Piedmont, a respected healthcare institution with consistently high-quality care, is no longer our member. However, our disappointment is not about the loss of dues revenue—it stems from our sincere belief in the importance of the work we do in representing the entire hospital industry in Georgia with a statewide and unified voice. On behalf of the more than 170 hospitals GHA continues to represent, thank you for affording me the opportunity to set the record straight. 

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Definitely not a surprise: 11Alive reports that, through a spokesman, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms intends to run for a second term in 2021.

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The dean of the Georgia Legislature plans to return for at least one more legislative session.

State Rep. Calvin Smyre is holding a fundraiser on Wednesday for his re-election campaign as he seeks a 23rd term under the Gold Dome.

The Columbus Democrat has served as an influential liaison between his growing caucus and the Republican powers-that-be.

He noted in his fundraising appeal he was instrumental in the push to deny the state takeover of Atlanta’s busy airport, the passage of criminal justice initiatives and workforce development programs.

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Democrat Dana Barrett will report raising more than $90,000 since she entered the race for Georgia's 11th Congressional District in October -- a sign she says that people in the northwest Georgia area are "desperate for change."

She’s competing to challenge U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, who has yet to report his latest fundraising haul but has amassed roughly $250,000 over the first nine months of 2019.

Loudermilk has coasted to re-election since he won the seat in 2014, but some Democrats believe they have an outside shot of flipping the conservative-leaning district.

Barrett said that Loudermilk's recent impeachment-driven remarks invoking the "crucifixion" of President Donald Trump shows "just how out of touch he is."

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