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Film Florida wants incentives bill included in special session

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After being passed over for funding during the past couple of legislative sessions, members of the film, television and digital media community in Florida had their fingers crossed long before the 2015 session started that this would be the year that the state’s film tax incentive program would be replenished, after it used all of its funds up a few years ago.

But House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s decision to blow off the session with three days left to go last month killed numerous bills working their way through committees, possibly including the film incentives package.

Now the entertainment industry is calling on Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner and Gov. Rick Scott to include the incentives legislation when the House and Senate come back for a special session next month.

“As we approach special session, we ask that you please consider including the film, TV and digital media investment program language from the Senate’s Economic Development Package (SB 1214) as part of the call for the special session,” writes an uncredited author with Film Florida, a state entertainment production association that has been leading the campaign for the tax incentives. “This language has addressed all of the concerns of both the House and Senate. To date, the program has received overwhelming support from all of the committees in both the House and Senate.”

Those bills are being sponsored by Venice Republican Nancy Detert in the Senate and  Winter Haven Republican Jeff Miller in the House.

Film Florida is also directing supporters of the legislation to sign a petition that calls for passage of the bill, something that nearly a thousand Floridians have done to date.

Other than getting a budget deal agreed upon, there hasn’t  been any agenda listed for the special session, slated to start June 1.

But as Florida Politics reported on the day that Crisafulli adjourned the House early, lobbyists for various film commissions around the state said that they believed their issue could be discussed in the special session. The reason for that optimism is the fact that though the legislation had been winding its way through committees in both the House and Senate, there had never been any appropriations assigned to the package.

Here’s the letter in full:

“Dear Governor Scott, President Gardiner and Speaker Crisafulli,

We understand how difficult this time is for you and all of our Florida legislators. You are facing tough decisions and have many issues in front of you. As we approach special session, we ask that you please consider including the film, TV and digital media investment program language from the Senate’s Economic Development Package (SB 1214) as part of the call for the special session. This language has addressed all of the concerns of both the House and Senate. To date, the program has received overwhelming support from all of the committees in both the House and Senate.

Our film, TV and digital media program has come so far this year due to the extensive efforts of our Board, 40+ Florida film commissions, industry partners, crew, business owners, associations, educators, film students and our champions Senator Detert and Representative Miller. We are dedicated to work with you on this important piece of legislation that affects more than 16,000 film & digital media production related companies, more than 100,000 Floridians working in the industry, and thousands of new graduates trying to secure their first job here in this great state.

Industry leaders have been committed to working with our legislators to develop a balanced program that will enhance the positive return on the state’s investment, proving long-term credibility and worth. We have heard our legislators loud and clear and as a result substantial changes were made to the program that will help create more jobs, encourage economic and tourism growth, establish better accountability benchmarks and ultimately strengthen and diversify Florida’s economy now and into the future.

We remain confident that you understand this business and the number of jobs it affects. Please support Florida’s Entertainment Industry now and into the future.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the 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. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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