Last Call for 1.21.21 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Sen. Joe Gruters filed a bill Thursday that would set up a targeted rebate program aimed at luring film and television productions to Florida.

SB 704 would set up the “Film, Television, and Digital Media Targeted Rebate Program” under the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The program would offer film, TV and digital media productions a rebate for the lesser of 20% or $2 million of production costs if they get preapproved as a “certified project.”

To get certified, studios must rent equipment such as cameras, vehicles or lighting setups from Florida businesses; spend at least 70% of its budget or production days in Florida; employ a majority Floridian cast and crew, one of whom is majority veteran; and meet minimum budget requirements — $1.5 million for films or $500,000 per episode for TV or streaming episodes.

Projects could qualify for another 3% cashback if they spend 75% of their overall budget in Florida or if they are deemed “family-friendly” by the Commissioner of Film and Entertainment and a council.

Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, filed a nearly identical bill in 2020. It cleared one committee before it fizzled despite strong support from the business community and Film Florida, a statewide association that advocates for pro-film policy.

The 2021 effort has again drawn support from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Florida as well as government watchdog Florida TaxWatch, which has analyzed past iterations and found they would produce a net gain for the state by way of tax collections.

A year later, FTW stands by that determination.

“Florida TaxWatch research shows that a film incentive program could create jobs for Florida residents, promote Florida tourism, pump additional revenue into local businesses, and generate state and local revenues,” the group wrote in a statement.

“Florida lawmakers need to recognize the value of this industry and leverage its ability to bring in serious cash flow into communities that desperately need it. Now is the time for Florida to build a new incentive program.”

Coronavirus Numbers

Positive cases:

— 1,584,442 FL residents (+12,602 since Wednesday)

— 29,442 Non-FL residents (+271 since Wednesday)


— 13,240 Travel related

— 592,628 Contact with a confirmed case

— 17,960 Both

— 960,614 Under investigation


— 69,282 in FL


— 25,128 in FL

Evening Reads

Joe Biden inheriting nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan and must start ‘from scratch,’ sources say” via MJ Lee of CNN

Marco Rubio: Biden’s inauguration won’t ‘make American normal again’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

NRSC head Rick Scott to back GOP incumbents over Trump challengers” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO

The Florida Democrats who just might win statewide races” via Mac Stipanovich for the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Capitol alerted, searched after bomb threat” via Ana Ceballos of The Miami Herald

Senate pandemic chair takes aim at lockdowns” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Killing Florida barge canal 50 years ago offers lessons for stopping toll roads” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix

Congressman urges probe of Pasco school data program” via Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times

Is Florida vaccinating nonresidents or not? It’s hard to get an answer.” via Megan Reeves and Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford appointed to USF Board of Trustees” via Thomas Tobin of the Tampa Bay Times

Man arrested for Florida Capitol bomb threat” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Florida coronavirus: Nearly 25,000 residents dead; 12,873 new infections reported” via the Orlando Sentinel

With little backup and COVID spread, Florida hospitals could feel staffing squeeze soon” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald

Worth the gamble? World Poker Tour will draw hundreds to Hard Rock this weekend as COVID odds rise” via Ben Crandell of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Crossroads center near Disney reaches historic $198 million eminent domain settlement with state” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“Pandemics and viruses were here before us. They will be here after us. And so, we have to be ready for the next time. Hopefully, very soon, we can get back to life as we knew it, you know, and get out of this new normal.” — Sen. Danny Burgess, saying the Senate pandemic committee will outline steps to handle future pandemics.

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