All it takes is one Senate committee hearing and the Florida film community galvanizes.
Suddenly there’s a flurry of media attention being paid to film legislation in Florida.
Hope again takes flight.
Excitement is warranted to some extent – at the very least we’re seeing auguries of expanded legislative support for efforts to address the lack of film production in our state – but a cool-headed overview of the broad landscape is prudent at this early stage. Here’s how things stand as committee weeks wrap and we approach the March 5th convening of the 2019 legislative session.
Under committee chair and bill sponsor Senator Joe Gruters, the Senate Commerce Committee hearing yesterday for Senate Bill 526 prompted coverage by The Gainesville Sun, Florida Politics, and Florida Watchdog – each one heralding the legislation as a new attempt to promote an incentives-based program for Florida film, television, and digital media. We commend our friend Senator Gruters for promoting this Film Florida-crafted targeted grant program. However, while it may have been intended to be low-key enough to steer clear of conservative vilification, Americans for Prosperity was present at this very first committee stop, leveling its guns and signaling that AFP Florida spokespeople are prepared once again to mount vigorous opposition to any efforts that smack of corporate welfare in 2019. Under whatever moniker, tax-dollar giveaways remain a perennial target in red-state Florida.
SB 526 passed by unanimous vote of the four senators in attendance. Video of the committee’s actions on the bill begin at the 7:30 mark of the video here.
Senator Linda Stewart’s SB 726 – which regrettably received no press attention yesterday – proposes a different direction altogether. This bill may have real potential to gain traction by adding a simple amendment to existing legislation that would give our industry access to Tourist Development Tax dollars to “promote or incentivize” film and television productions on the local level, wording that may open the door to financing alternatives such as those being advocated by COMPASS. We applaud Senator Stewart for thinking outside the box.
Bear in mind, however, that neither SB 526 or SB 726 has yet to secure a companion bill and sponsor in the House. Indeed, House leadership has not indicated any change in its rigorous opposition to film issues to date, which likely portends continuing rough traveling in this chamber.
COMPASS legislation has been re-filed both in the Senate by our tireless advocate Senator Annette Taddeo (SB 1014) and House under new sponsorship by freshman Representative Michael Greico (HB 867) with Representative David Silvers as co-sponsor. We are again positioned as potent players on the legislative chess board; however, while we will continue to promote the advantages of financing over incentivizing film projects, any effort to move our program forward on a state level will require significant amending of the existing language during session.
All things said, this is a good beginning, proving that Florida film advocates are as never-say-die as ever. Session draws near, there is energy at the Capitol, and birds once more are on the wing. Now let’s see where they eventually roost.