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Entertainment incentives finally moving forward in Legislature

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After years of legislative legwork and heated debate — occasionally before a national audience — Sen. Nancy Detert may land her Senate tenure’s Moby Dick at long last. Her proposal to establish state incentives for Florida-based film and entertainment projects is alive and moving through the process.

Language similar to Detert’s SB 1046 has come close to passage before, however, but has not been implemented. And there’s also the matter of conforming her bill to another moving target in the House.

Rep. Mike Miller‘s HB 451 is also advancing through the process. Currently TP’d on second reading before the full House, there are differences that must be reconciled for the bill to hit the governor’s desk.

Miller recently told the Miami Herald that Detert’s plan — which contains a fast-track mechanism that would allow the state to formulate and offer deals quickly in order secure time-sensitive productions — may not pass in its exact present form, but that outstanding differences are merely a matter of degree.

“I know that Sen. Detert likes the quick action close,” Miller told Michael Auslen. “The House is not — we’re not saying no to that. It’s just how we fit the pieces together.”

One thing they agree on is that these kinds of incentives are just plain good policy.

Detert has been adamant that Florida has to act to stop the structural artistic brain drain that results from the combination of a handful of serious university film programs — notably at Florida State University and Ringling College of Art and Design in Detert’s native Sarasota — mismatched with smaller-than-capacity film and television industries. State investment in entertainment endeavors, Detert argues, is the best way to grow a fledgling statewide industry.

Her program alone, however, falls short of what Florida ought to achieve in this direction while the legislative getting is good.

Academy Award-nominated producer Brunson Green came to Tallahassee to testify in favor of television incentives when it was taken up in Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development on March 11.

“Given the complicated financing landscape for television production, a public/private partnership that utilizes state investment and oversight to leverage private capital that is managed by trusted financial institutions with industry experience is an exciting prospect,” Brunson extolled. “The QTV is an innovative plan that would give Florida a competitive advantage in the entertainment industry.”

Specifically, Green praised the qualified television revolving loan program — QTV in bill-speak — contained in Sen. Aaron Bean‘s bill on the matter as well as the Rep. Chris Latvala-sponsored HB 237, yet another piece of the puzzle that may well find its way across the goal line this Session.

Interestingly, the largely Republican-oriented film incentives legislative efforts have seen significant support from labor quarters.

“We strongly support this bill because it is designed to attract high-impact episodic television production to the Florida market, said Congress of Motion Picture Associations of Florida chair Christen Ranung. “Simply put, QTV is an additional option that, along with successful passage of tax credit legislation, could dramatically increase the amount of new HITV series coming to Florida every year, with a corresponding increase in good production jobs and economic spend throughout the state.

“Furthermore,” Ranung continued, “QTV is an alternative funding source that — in the current nationwide climate of pushback against tax credits and other forms of incentives for motion picture production — may very well become an industry norm a few years from now as more states look to modify, decrease or even completely eliminate their incentive programs.

Some combination of the House Latvala language and Miller’s companion to Detert’s bill would likely make the most sense in terms of crafting a viable final proposal.

As the film incentives inch towards joining the ranks of finalized bills to pass the full Legislature this Session — which number a paltry 22 so far — let’s hope cooler heads prevail and that incentives to help grow the Florida entertainment industry cut through the noise and make it into law.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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