State Rep. Ed Setlzer, R-Acworth, and state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, answer press questions after Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 481, the "heartbeat bill" on Tuesday. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

The Jolt: Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ law produces no Hollywood eruption

Perhaps it’s the three-hour time difference, but Gov. Brian Kemp’s Tuesday signature on one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the nation has unleashed no immediate evidence that a Hollywood boycott of Georgia’s fledgling TV and movie industry is in the offing.

Deadline.com, a Hollywood-oriented website, carried news that House Bill 481 was now law, but used only recycled threats that actress Alyssa Milano made in April, when the Legislature was still considering the legislation.

The Los Angeles Times drew on an Associated Press wire feed that made no mention of a boycott. And the last time the word “Georgia” appeared in Variety was on April 19. It was a reference to the death of actress Georgia Engel, whom older readers will remember from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

No statements of disappointment from major studios have hit our inbox. And protesters at the state Capitol emphasized Tuesday that the courtroom is where they intend to make their mark.

We have told you that, despite Milano and her April letter to Kemp, which contained the names of 50 or so actors, Democrats in Georgia have actively discouraged talk of a boycott -- pointing to several thousand union jobs that would be put at risk.

Even so, one suspects that Republicans would relish a fight against Alec Baldwin & Co.

The Christian Broadcasting Network, on its website, went with this headline: “GA Gov. Stands Up to Hollywood Elite, Signs 'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban Despite Pressure From Celebs.”

Shortly after Kemp signed the “heartbeat” bill into law, state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, pointed out that the #MeToo movement started in Hollywood. Said Setzler: 

“I’m going to let the Harvey Weinsteins in Hollywood and people in that culture clean themselves up. We’re in a place as a state where we have a very solid record as a magnet to the movie industry. I don’t doubt that there’s not some shrill activist who wants to leverage their fame and attack the solid things we’re doing in Georgia. But I think the movie industry, writ large, is here because they recognize Georgia is a great place to make movies.”

State Sen. Renee Unterman, the main sponsor of the measure in the Senate, chimed in on the same topic. 

“We’re very proud of the movie industry,” she said. “But we have our values, and we’re going to protect our values. They knew when they came here what we are and who we are.” 

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Speaking of Renee Unterman, the state senator from Buford sure sounded like a candidate for that Seventh District congressional seat. Unterman said the anti-abortion measure was the “culmination” of her career in the Legislature, and a lifelong goal. When asked directly about when she’s entering the race, Unterman smiled but wouldn’t comment. 

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Outside of women who dislike seeing their access to abortion sharply curtailed, one of the most disappointed groups on Tuesday was Georgia Right to Life. Georgia’s new anti-abortion law will permit abortions after a “heartbeat” is detected in cases of rape or incest -- though only if the woman has filed a police report. Georgia Right to Life is a no-exceptions organization. From the press release:

While Georgia Right to Life supports the strong pro-personhood language included in the bill, it sadly creates a two-tiered framework for determining which children in the womb will be allowed to live and which will not.

Because of this compromised measure, it will now be legal to kill children conceived by rape or incest, as well as in cases of medical emergencies, and pregnancies predicted to be “medically futile.” This is discrimination; not equal protection and equal justice.

Legislators can’t claim the moral high ground by sacrificing some human lives to save others. 

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Even without Renee Unterman, the Seventh District congressional race continues to heat up.

We’ve told you of Harrison Floyd, a new Republican candidate who in his introductory video says he would “fight socialists in Congress the same way I fought terrorists in the desert.” A brief clip has him firing a machine gun.

It didn’t sit well with Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who nearly won the seat last year and is running again.

“Violence has absolutely no place in our public discourse & I denounce this abhorrent video in the strongest possible terms," Bourdeaux tweeted. "This message doesn’t represent GA values & for Harrison Floyd to enter this race by inciting violence is wrong. He has no place in Congress."

Floyd responded with a GIF of a tank running over protesters in Venezuela. “Socialism kills. @Carolyn4GA7, if you think socialism has any place in this country I fought to protect, then I don’t think you should be in Congress,” he replied

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NBC News spotlighted a pair of fundraisers in Atlanta that raised about $200,000 for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris in March to highlight the White House hopeful’s success raising money from people of color. Check it out here. 

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Just in time for both of their 2020 re-election campaigns, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., may team up with President Donald Trump once again to boost a plan that would overhaul the country’s legal immigration system.

Perdue was one of 12 Senate Republicans to be briefed at the White House yesterday about a new proposal authored by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner that seeks to transition the U.S. to a merit-based immigration system.

The details are still under wraps, but the plan appears to build off the RAISE Act, legislation Perdue and Sen. Tom Cotton spearheaded in 2017 with the backing of the president. That bill sought to limit the types of family members legal residents can bring to the U.S and prioritize would-be migrants who speak English and are well-educated. The legislation never advanced in the GOP-controlled Senate but helped inform a later Trump immigration proposal that was rejected by the chamber.

“It’s a great step forward, I think,” Perdue told reporters about the new White House plan. “It’s like RAISE 2.0.”

Like the legislation Perdue backed two years ago, this one is also unlikely to move. It’s far more likely to become a 2020 talking point.

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FBI Director Chris Wray, a former Atlanta attorney, distanced himself from his boss at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday. Last month, Attorney General William Barr that the FBI “spied” on the Trump campaign in 2016. From the AP: 

FBI Director Chris Wray said Tuesday that he does not consider court-approved FBI surveillance to be “spying” and said he has no evidence the FBI illegally monitored President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election. 

...Wray declined to discuss in detail the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign because of an ongoing Justice Department inspector general probe into the origins of the Russia inquiry. Barr has said he expects the watchdog report to be done in May or June.

But asked whether he was aware of evidence that the FBI had illegally spied on the Trump campaign, Wray said, “I don’t think I personally have any evidence of that sort.”

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A new Morning Consult poll shows Trump’s approval rating flat in Georgia. Forty-nine percent of voters approved of the president in April, compared to 46 percent who disapproved, virtually unchanged from March. Read more here

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