SB 1808 passes first committee stop

In the span of only ten minutes at the Capitol this afternoon, Senate Bill 1808, carrying a resolution in support of Florida motion picture production, unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism. Three Florida senators spoke energetically in favor and all five committee members voted to approve, giving this modest but essential bill a clear path forward.

By their vote, the members agreed with the three key elements of the resolution:

“that the Senate recognizes the value of film and production as an economic driver and a creator of high-wage jobs;

“that the Senate encourages continued collaboration of both public-sector and private-sector efforts to develop programs and partnerships related to film and television production; and

“that the Senate supports and encourages the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment as it continues to promote such partnerships, including national and international collaborative programs, in its national and international marketing efforts.”

A concise and effective introductory presentation by bill sponsor Senator Annette Taddeo was followed by representatives of organizations from around the state who waived in support and appearances in favor by John Lux of Film Florida and Chris Ranung of COMPASS. Facing opposition only from Americans for Prosperity, SB 1808 handily cleared its first hurdle and is now positioned for consideration by the Senate Rules Committee, the final step before it can be heard and approved by the full Senate on the floor.

Video of committee proceedings is available on The Florida Channel here. Discussion on the resolution begins at the 20:05 mark and ends at 30:25.

If SB 1808 successfully passes the 2019 session, this small win may be remembered as the moment our collective voice first began to be heard. We thank Senator Taddeo sincerely for her tireless work on behalf of our industry, Chair Gruters for his leadership and consistent advocacy, the members of the Committee, and everyone in the audience who showed up to support this effort.

Therefore be it resolved . . .

While we wait to see whether SB 526 continues its advance in the Senate and HB 1401 will be granted committee referrals and appearances in the House – hopeful that these good bills can buck the obstructionist trend of previous sessions – suddenly another legislative strategem is making a blip on Tallahassee’s radar.

Senate Bill 1808 is on the calendar for consideration by the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism this coming Monday afternoon. COMPASS-crafted and introduced by Senator Annette Taddeo (D-40, Miami Dade), SB 1808 is not a bill but rather a legislative resolution and, as such, has no force of law. Its intentions are threefold: to give Florida legislators an opportunity to recognize publicly the value of film and television production to our state’s economy, to provide additional momentum to state-level legislation such as SB 426/HB 1401 as well as to private programs and partnerships designed to promote film and television production in the Sunshine State, and to encourage the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment to continue its very effective national and international marketing work in support of both public- and private-sector efforts to revitalize the Florida motion picture industry.

SB 1808 will not change the world for Florida filmmakers. It won’t create a film incentive or grant or financing program of any kind. It is a building block, meant purely to support other pending legislation and lay a foundation for future efforts. If it makes its way to a hearing on the Senate floor, however, we may be able for the first time in many years to prompt Florida’s legislators to voice full-throated, concerted, public support for our beleaguered industry.

Success comes slowly for the effort to restore film and television production in Florida, so long and consistently forsaken by our legislative leaders. But on whatever playing field, one small win will surely lead to more. While the successful passage of this resolution may seem small potatoes for now, the saying holds true that small potatoes are better than no potatoes at all.

 

Senate Bill 526 secures House companion bill

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.

COMPASS Chair, Chris Ranung is twenty-plus years a filmworker and president of Local 477 of the I.A.T.S.E. – the AFL-CIO affiliated labor union that represents working crew in Florida: grips, lighting technicians, paint & scenic, wardrobe, construction and propmakers, craft service personnel, greens, set dressing, special effects technicians, sound mixers and sound department personnel, studio teachers, animal wranglers, first aid, the marine department and much more.

Chris believes ardently that Florida’s film community – its actors, working crew, production teams, supplementary personnel, support businesses – ranks among the best in the United States.  He sees COMPASS as the necessary vehicle to reinvigorate production and restore jobs, revenue, and dignity to the Florida men and women who work in motion picture production and the Florida small businesses that sustain this historically important Florida industry.

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