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LA Times: Florida tax rebate plan could backfire

in Statewide by
Seeking to be family friendly, Florida may have learned a hard lesson in how not to be Hollywood friendly.

The Sunshine state startled the film industry recently when a bill was introduced in the state Legislature that would disqualify movies and TV shows that contained “nontraditional family values” from receiving a supplemental “family friendly” tax credit that’s been in effect for a couple of years.

The bill, unanimously endorsed last week by a key legislative committee, is part of a larger $75-million incentive program aimed at luring film and entertainment jobs to the state.

But critics have lambasted the family friendly portion of the package as potentially discriminatory, noting that it could disqualify movies such as “The Kids Are All Right,” this summer’s upcoming comedy about the children of a lesbian couple and their relationship with their father.

Hollywood’s chief lobbying arm also expressed disapproval.

“We believe the language that was first proposed raises some serious constitutional issues,” said Vans Stevenson, senior vice president of state government affairs for the Motion Picture Assn. of America. “We are working with the sponsors of the legislation to see if we can craft some language that would pass constitutional muster.”

Peter Dekom, a veteran Los Angeles entertainment attorney, said the bill, if enacted, would spark costly litigation and discourage filmmakers from shooting in Florida, where about 20 TV shows and films were shot in fiscal 2009.

“It could serve as a major deterrent to Florida,” Dekom said. “There are a lot of actors and high-profile producers who have a powerful belief in gay rights and equal treatment under the law.”

Responding to the furor, the Florida Senate is poised to remove the controversial language from the bill this week and the House is expected to follow suit.

No other state has a similar tax credit, though Texas comes close. Texas stipulates that it is not required to provide tax breaks on projects that contain “inappropriate content” or “content that portrays Texans or Texas in a negative fashion.”

The chief backer of the Florida bill, Rep. Stephen Precourt (R-Orlando), was unavailable for comment. In a recent interview with the Palm Beach Post, Precourt said the aim was not to target the gay community but to promote wholesome movies for family audiences.

“Think of it like Mayberry,” Precourt said, invoking the fictional community that was the setting for “The Andy Griffith Show,” the iconic 1960s sitcom. Full story here.

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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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