‘Come back home’: Gavin Newsom cites Alabama abortion ban to recapture the film industry

Gov. Gavin Newsom is citing recent abortion bans in conservative states to argue that film companies should take their productions out of the South and back to California.

In a Twitter video with Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, Newsom said California, which already gives tax breaks to films, is “going to do more” to entice productions to film in the Golden State.

“For those of you that have left to do production in states like Georgia, consider the investment there and what it’s promoting, versus investing in your state and what we’re promoting,” he said in the video posted Tuesday evening. “This is the moment, come back home.”

Rivas is carrying a bill to give new tax breaks to films that relocate production from states with strict abortion restrictions back to California. Despite what Newsom said in the video, his office wouldn’t say if he will support the bill.

“There’s businesses in my district that thrive when there are productions in Southern California,” said Rivas, a Los Angeles Democrat. “California is both a leader in women’s rights and the filming industry, so productions that film here can share our values and protect the women that work for them.”

Their comments follow a wave of new abortion restrictions in Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi and Georgia.

On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the country’s most restrictive ban on abortion, which outlaws the procedure in nearly all cases and threatens doctors who perform abortions with up to 99 years in prison. Alabama Republicans designed the law to provoke a legal fight that could ultimately challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.

The American film industry was born in Hollywood, but more than 30 states, including Alabama and Georgia, have since created film tax credits intended to lure movies and television shows out of California.

Rivas says her bill, AB 1442 would give tax breaks to films that relocate to California from a state with abortion restrictions.

It wouldn’t be the first time California has linked film tax credits to progressive social policies. Last year, California lawmakers passed a law to require film and television projects that apply for state tax credits to report diversity statistics to the state and designate people to handle sexual misconduct claims.

Those changes to the California film tax credit program, which doles out up to $330 million in tax credits each year, came in the wake of the #MeToo movement and revelations of sexual harassment and discrimination in the industry.

Lawmakers have argued California’s tax credits bring billions of dollars in economic activity to the state. But some analyses have found little evidence of the promised benefits. A 2016 University of Southern California study found states see little job growth and only short-term wage gains in exchange for the millions of dollars they put into the programs.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office determined roughly one third of the projects that received California tax credits would have filmed in the state anyway, but that the cost of the program was likely offset by the economic activity brought by those films.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star