As the Georgia Aquarium celebrates its tenth anniversary, a new economic impact study finds the museum has injected $1.9 billion in the local economy in the last decade.
According to a new report by Bleakly Advisory Group, since opening the Aquarium has attracted some 22 million visitors, from which a majority hailed out of state, and contributed $8.1 million annually in state and local sales taxes in the last year.
“Every dollar invested in Georgia Aquarium generates an additional $2.50 of private and public investment to the area,” chief operating officer Joe Handy told the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Already the largest aquarium in North America, the facility is slated to open a new $40 million California sea lion exhibit next month, with later expansions for an expanded dolphin exhibit underway as well.
The owner of a Georgia-based telecommunications startup says he is relocating his firm in protest of the state Senate’s approval last week of the First Amendment Defense Act.
Kelvin Williams said the decision to uproot his company, 373k, was in direct response to the General Assembly’s consideration of the controversial religious liberty proposal.
The bill, which must now be approved by the House of Representatives, would empower individuals and not-for-profits to refuse service if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Critics of the measure say it would give licenses to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and also unmarried couples and single mothers.
“That’s just something that we can’t live with,” Williams told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB. Watch the interview after the jump.
One of the flashiest sectors of Georgia’s economy is mobilizing with new urgency after the passage last week of a controversial religious liberty proposal in the state Senate that critics maintain would enable discrimination.
The new front in the continued legal battle over same-sex marriage, the Georgia General Assembly has been weighing some eight proposals this session that would in some way grant safe harbor to opponents of the freedom to marry. In several instances, the legislation would give explicit license to deny service to gays and lesbians and even single mothers, according to legal analysts.
On Friday, the Senate approved legislation combining two proposals, the Pastor Protection Act and First Amendment Defense Act. The combined bill awaits final approval by the House of Representatives.
Now, the entertainment industry, among the state tax code’s most nurtured sectors, is warning that Georgia’s close-up will soon cut.
“This very assembly working on this bill has invested billions of taxpayer dollars growing an industry that would leave this state,” Brian Tolleson, the president of Atlanta-based entertainment firm Bark Bark, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They will boycott coming to shoot anything here.”
A lawyer representing adult entertainment venues says his clients will sue Georgia over the state’s new anti-trafficking law, which provides for a victims fund that is financed in part through a new tax on the red light establishments.
Governor Nathan Deal on Tuesday signed the Safe Harbor Law, which sets strict penalties for those convicted of human trafficking and creates a new state fund to cover healthcare, housing, and counseling bills for victims of the sex trade.
The cost of the new fund will be covered by charging pimps a $2,500 fine and fixing an annual $5,000 operating fee on strip clubs, though the question of whether the clubs will pay into the fund will be decided next year by voters.
Atlanta attorney Alan Begner, whose practice represents nearly two-thirds of strip clubs in the capital city, said he could “certainly guarantee the law will be challenged,” but couldn’t specify the number of petitioners who’d bring suit. At issue, he said, is the club owners’ protected speech.
“Nude dancing is protected under the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions, and speech cannot be taxed,” he told Atlanta NPR affiliate WABE Wednesday.
Governor Nathan Deal on Tuesday green lighted the commercial sale and regulation of fireworks in Georgia.
The new law, which cleared the General Assembly only hours before the legislative session expired, will take affect July 1 — in time for Independence Day celebrations across the state.
All of Georgia’s neighbors already allow for the sale of fireworks, though previous attempts to legalize their sale locally bombed amid opposition from health groups and public safety officials.
Deal, on Tuesday, said he believed the debate this year was less incendiary because of safety carveouts included in the bill. The new law requires those businesses or nonprofits selling fireworks to be licensed by the state and pay a $5,000 fee, which will be used for public safety purposes.
“People in our state are crossing state lines and buying fireworks,” Deal said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We have so many neighbors around us that already authorize the sale of fireworks, I think this just made sense. And I think we have taken every precaution we can to try to eliminate any injuries associated with it.”
A Braves executives said at a recent public forum that he hoped fans would choose alternative transportation methods, like bicycles, when traveling to the team’s new suburban stadium.
Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of operations, told a business association Tuesday that he hopes fans will consider biking to the team’s new location in suburban northwest Atlanta to relieve congestion.
“We’re working closely with [community improvement districts] because we’re going to have a lot of bikers, and we want people to ride there, certainly on the weekends are take cars off the road,” Plant said at a meeting of the Kennesaw Business Association according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
The new stadium, into which the team will move in time for the 2017 season, is located off of one of the city’s major arteries, I-285. Last year, a cyclist was struck by a motorist down just down the road from the site of the new stadium.
Georgia Rep. Doug Collins has secured more than a dozen GOP lawmakers as cosponsors for his resolution of disapproval aimed at blocking the Federal Communications Commission new internet regulatory framework.
The list of cosponsors, according to a Collins aide, includes four other Georgians. The are: Reps. Lynn Westmoreland, Rick Allen, Barry Loudermilk, and Buddy Carter. And the remaining boosters: Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Steve Chabot, Glenn Grothman, Bob Latta, Bill Posey, Ryan Zinke, Sam Johnson, Dennis Ross, and Vern Buchanan.
The FCC voted along partisan lines in February to reclassify broadband internet as a common carrier service, much in the same way the agency regulates telephone service.
Collins’ resolution, a one-pager introduced Monday afternoon, makes use of the Congressional Review Act, which empowers the legislative branch formally to reject rules set by major federal agencies.
The measure requires only a simple majority in both chambers, thus avoiding a filibuster threat by Senate Democrats, but the president must still authorize it.
The resolution’s nut: “Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating tot he matter of protecting and promoting the open internet … and such rule shall have no force or effect.”
Read the resolution after the jump.