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Backers say film incentive bill still alive in Tallahassee

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s abrupt decision to gavel the 60-day legislative session to a close three days before its scheduled end because of a budget impasse with the Senate affects loads of important legislation.

For the members of Florida’s economy that work in the TV/movie and digital entertainment industry, it could be a devastating blow.

That’s because a bill sponsored by Venice Republicans Nancy Detert in the Senate and Mike Miller of Winter Park in the House that would begin to make Florida more competitive with other states in attracting film and television programs has yet to pass through both houses of the Legislature, potentially setting the state back another yet another year in trying to lure Hollywood productions to the Sunshine State. The state set aside $296 million for such productions that was supposed to last for six years back in 2010, but they burned through that in just a few years, making it a priority for the entertainment community this year.

But Dale Gordon the head the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission, says that while officials in the entertainment community in Florida we’re stunned by today’s development, they’re still confident that the bill will come back in the special session – though the likelihood of passage is still unclear at this time.

“We’re not panicking right now,” she told Florida Politics Tuesday afternoon. “We’re surprised, but we knew the special session was going to happen anyway. It’s inevitable.”

Gordon says that because there have been no appropriations assigned to the film incentive package, lobbyists have informed her that this and other economic development bills will be addressed during the special session, which has to be called for but will probably happen sometime in June (June 1 has been rumored as the opening day). The Legislature must come together to close the several billion dollar gap between the two houses to get a budget to Governor Rick Scott by June 30, when the current budget expires.

St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer says it will be “hugely disappointing” if the film incentives package fails once again to get through the Legislature. 

“If it’s not going to happen, it really puts us behind when you look at states like Louisiana and Georgia just to the north of us who are just killing it in the film business right now, and we just keep falling farther and father behind,” he says.

Production talent from both sides of the Bay are working overtime this week as the Brad Furman directed, Bryan Cranston starring vehicle, The Infiltrator shoots in both St. Petersburg and Tampa. Armer said he was on the set on Saturday night when several Florida based members of the crew kept asking him for updates on the legislation.

“I don’t want to have to move to Atlanta, you know?” Armer quoted on crew member telling him. Another said to him, “If this doesn’t happen, then I’m going to have to move.”

Dale Gordon says the out of town cast and crew of The Infiltrator have been spending a lot of money in the Bay area, and says the producers “keep adding locations left and right because they’re so excited about what they’re seeing.”

John Lux, CEO of Orlando Production facility IDEAS said earlier this month that the Legislature’s vote will impact 16,000 companies representing part of a multi-million dollar “trickledown” effect to the state’s economy.

Gordon says she’s in constant contact with lobbyists and others in the the industry all the time to figure out where the legislation stands with state lawmakers. If they do ultimately vote to support the plan, it will be in the face of a fierce lobbying effort against it from Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers funded group. AFP seized earlier this year on a report by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research that found the state gets 43 cents back for every dollar awarded in tax incentives to productions. Supporters of the legislation counter that the study’s numbers were misunderstood, as it only calculates tax receipts the government gets back, mainly through sales taxes.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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