This past Monday, as the countdown to start-of-session entered its final hours, Senate Bill 526 successfully gained critical sponsorship in the House. Representative James Buchanan (R-74, Sarasota) filed HB 1401, the anxiously awaited companion bill to SB 526 that now makes it possible for the effort to create a grant program for film, television, and digital media projects to move forward in both legislative chambers. The freshman legislator was immediately supported by veteran Representative Holly Raschein (R-120, Miami Dade, Monroe County) who signed on as the bill’s first co-sponsor. Senator Joe Gruters (R-23, Sarasota) is the original sponsor, having introduced the bill on the Senate side in January.
Representative James Buchanan
Of four film bills originally filed in the Senate this session – the others are SB 726 (Stewart), SB 1014 (Taddeo), and SB 1394 (Torres) – SB 526 is now the only one that has successfully secured a House sponsorship, giving it and its parallel a real chance to advance and ultimately pass in 2019.
However, it remains to be seen whether House leadership will facilitate forward movement for Buchanan’s bill. We anticipate committee referrals will be announced soon, hopefully followed by an appearance before House legislators in the early weeks of session. We also expect conservative disapproval to continue and a likely increase in the level of opposition already demonstrated by Americans for Prosperity at SB 526’s first committee stop in the Senate last month. This relentless pressure to resist incentives for film in any form has created an impassable roadblock for our industry in the lower chamber over the past several years. At this point, we can only look for new House leadership to deem an open door to discussion and debate on how best to bring movie and television production jobs back to the Sunshine State appropriate over the months ahead.
Senator Gruters and Representative Buchanan have both earned our appreciation and support for stepping forward to help reinvigorate the Florida motion picture industry.