The Legislature didn’t approve a new film production program this year, but the industry still has plenty to celebrate as the 2020 Legislative Session wraps.
Bills (HB 7039 and SB 1636) in the House and Senate repealing several advisory bodies originally included the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council alongside other, lesser-known entities such as the Tropical Fruit Advisory Council and the Nonmandatory Land Reclamation Committee.
But unlike some of the committees on the chopping block, the FFEAC isn’t vestigial.
Originally created under then-Governor Jeb Bush, it includes former legislators, business executives, entertainment industry veterans and community leaders; it meets regularly; and it doesn’t cost the state a penny.
The volunteer members provide the Department of Economic Opportunity with valuable insight and expertise related to developing, marketing, promoting and providing services to Florida’s entertainment industry including how the state can build a film-friendly business climate and a workforce with the skills studios are looking for.
The council’s input is vital in luring productions to the state. And when productions come, they spend big and pay well — Floridians in the trade make an average of $82,000 a year, which is two-thirds more than the state average for all jobs.
Film and television productions also support thousands of businesses and attract throngs of tourists, driving up tax revenues for the state as well as local governments.
The film industry was able to make the case, convincing members on both sides of the aisle that the council was not only necessary, but vital to the economy. They spoke up and an amendment to HB 7039, which is now ready for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature, spares the council.
Show business also scored a win in the occupational licensing deregulation package.
The wide-ranging bills (SB 474 and HB 1193) slashes licensing requirements for barbers, electrical contractors, and geologists. Some professions, including nutritionists, interior designers, boxing announcers would have licensing requirements eliminated completely.
The bills also sought to deregulate talent agencies, which had the potential to attract unsavory people to the profession, putting those with dreams of working in film at risk of being misled, swindled, or exploited. Simply put, it would have put the public at risk.
Though the deregulation package was successful, the version sent to the Governor leaves talent agent requirements untouched.
Both legislative wins were hard-fought, but the spotlight was on bills setting up a new film production rebate program (SB 530 and HB 497). The Senate bill, sponsored by Sarasota Sen. Joe Gruters, cleared one committee. The House version, sponsored by Rep. James Buchanan, wasn’t given a hearing.
But it wasn’t a total loss.
In both chambers, more lawmakers signed on to the proposal this year than last, indicating forward progress for the longtime industry priority.
In the Senate, Gruters was joined by Republican Sens. Anitere Flores, Gayle Harrel and Ed Hooper. Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson and more than half of Senate Democrats also co-sponsored. Likewise, Buchanan was joined by five Republican members and a half-dozen Democrats.