While the two months of the Legislative Session get the most attention, Film Florida’s efforts for the 2022 session began last Summer. Since the end of the 2021 Legislative Session, Film Florida members held more than 100 meetings with legislators and spoke at numerous local legislative delegation meetings. The focus of each meeting was to educate legislators on how our industry can be an important part of growing, strengthening and diversifying Florida’s economy.

Florida House Champion Representative Dana Trabulsy led the charge in with an Op-Ed in November: A Common-Sense Film Program. The State Capitol was not open to the public during the 2021 Legislative Session, but members of the Film Florida Board of Directors were back at the Capitol in November. Members took part in close to 80 meetings over a three day period plus, for the first time in years, Film Florida hosted a legislative reception where attendees heard remarks from Rep Trabulsy along with representatives from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), and Florida TaxWatch.

As the 2022 Legislative Session kicked-off in January, Film Florida Executive Director John Lux was on hand to present at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Legislative Fly-In Conference. John’s presentation was very well received and led to a lot of positive discussion regarding the industry. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and AIF announced their 2022 Legislative Priorities, with the “film industry” being included in both. Additionally, through Film Florida’s PR efforts, numerous news stories aired and were published building positive momentum in the early weeks of legislative session.

The efforts beginning last Summer, coupled with the tremendous support from our partners and the positive media coverage, led to overwhelming support of SB 946 from Senator Joe Gruters- R, Sarasota and HB 217 from Rep Dana Trabulsy- R, Fort Pierce. SB 946 finished with 15 bi-partisan co-sponsors and HB 217 finished with 26 bi-partisan co-sponsors. The number of co-sponsors stayed consistent from 2021 but more importantly, the co-sponsors were more geographically spread out, showing the statewide support for our efforts. The combined 41 co-sponsors are more than almost any other set of companion bills filed during the 2022 Legislative Session. 

Of the thousands of bills filed this year, just 285 crossed the finish line. Unfortunately, the primary bills Film Florida was advocating for (SB 946 from Senator Joe Gruters and HB 217 from Rep Dana Trabulsy) that included a “Targeted High Wage Production Program” were not among those that passed. This included a last-minute attempt by Senator Gruters to attach an amendment with language from SB 946 to another bill on the Senate Floor. Regardless of the issue or industry, getting a bill of any kind passed in the Florida Legislature continues to be extremely difficult. We want to sincerely thank Senator Joe Gruters and Rep Dana Trabulsy for being tremendous Champions for our industry. Senator Gruters and Rep Trabulsy continue to endure negative campaigns against them from our opponents because of their support for our industry but their support has not waivered.

In addition to advocating for SB 946 and HB 217, Film Florida also took an active role in advocating for SB 1878.  This bill focused on tax credits for Capital Investment (physical production studios) and Intellectual Property (original content). While different than SB 946 and HB 217, SB 1878 would also help our industry, along with other industries in Florida. SB 1878 died in committee along with SB 946 and HB 217.

Between the growing support in the legislature, and the many, many positive news stories about the importance of our industry in growing, strengthening and diversifying Florida’s economy, the obvious question is then, “Why couldn’t you pass a bill?” We continue to run into roadblocks from those legislators that sit in positions of leadership where they have the power to stonewall bills. Some that oppose our efforts believe the government shouldn’t be involved in private industry (not just our industry but any private industry); they don’t believe Florida needs to incentivize businesses to work in Florida. Some still do not understand the value of our industry for Florida. Finally, some are just indifferent so when bills that would benefit the industry come to their committees, there’s no urgency to address the bills. Our industry continues to be seen as a “nice to have” as opposed to “need to have” industry. Therefore, when time gets tight in committee meetings or funding is negotiated between this industry or that industry in budget talks, our industry doesn’t have enough strength in Legislative Leadership to push it through.

We are extremely proud of what we accomplished during the Legislative Session. As we mentioned last year, after the 2021 Legislative Session, we made changes in our strategy. While those changes had positive results, unfortunately they were not positive enough to get where we want to be. Despite the numerous accomplishments in our legislative efforts, we are far from satisfied, and honestly, we’re frustrated that our efforts to help grow and diversify Florida’s economy continue to be dismissed. While we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, it’s important to recognize the continued progress that was made in significantly building momentum, engaging in encouraging conversation and garnering positive media coverage for the industry. But as we did last year, we will examine all elements of the strategy and make additional changes as needed.

As we put the 2022 Legislative Session behind us, we look forward. One thing is clear, any effort to pass a statewide program to attract more companies, projects, jobs and opportunities for the industry requires help from everyone. Sitting back and relying on others or waiting for someone else to do the work is not an option. Reaching out to us the week before the 2023 Legislative Session asking what you can do is not enough. Sending messages through social media halfway through session wondering if anyone has spoken to this legislator or that legislator is not effective. The time to step up is now!

Of those 100+ meetings Film Florida members held with legislators that we mentioned earlier, more than 90% were held on Zoom. You can meet with legislators without leaving your home or office. There is an absolute correlation between the volume of meetings industry professionals had with the amount of co-sponsors SB 946 and HB 217 received. The more meetings, the more conversations, the more education, the more support our industry receives.

This year is an election year, and all 160 members of the Florida Legislature are up for election, many of them in different districts due to the new census data. We STRONGLY URGE you to get involved and engaged with your local candidates and legislators between May – October. Don’t wait until committee weeks and/or legislative session. Starting May 1, send your home address to info@FilmFlorida.org and we’ll look up your candidates and give you the info to reach out to them to tell your story. Local constituents telling local stories and building local relationships are much more important than 100+ e-mails from faceless people during legislative session. Some of our strongest supporters in the Florida Legislature have come from the last two election cycles. Another positive cycle of meetings and building relationships will go a long way to achieving our goal as an industry. We’re asking for 1-2 hours of time from each of you over the next six months to help shape our future.

We appreciate your ongoing support and engagement, and we look forward to continuing to spread the positive message about the entertainment production industry in Florida as we fight for the needs of our highly skilled, passionate workforce. We hope all of you, and your loved ones, continue to stay safe and healthy.