With the official start of the 2017 Legislative Session this week we wanted to update everyone on where things stand legislatively. For the first time since 2004, Florida does not have a state-wide program to entice film, television and digital media projects and companies to our state. Since last summer, Film Florida has been working with stakeholders to create multiple options for our industry that would bring more work, jobs and spending to Florida.

However, as everyone is aware, the Florida House recently filed a bill (HB 7005) that would, among other agencies, close the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment (the State Film Office), the office that has been in existence for more than 40 years. This bill would also end the Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption program, a program thousands of Florida-based companies have benefited from since 2001, most of which are small businesses.

Due to the filing of HB 7005, we have decided to take a step back from our planned proposed bill this year. Film Florida has determined that the top priority is to fight the proposed tax increase on our industry, keep the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment open, and ensure the message that Florida is open for business and remains interested in recruiting films and television shows to our state is conveyed around the world. We will continue meeting with and educating legislators so they understand the importance of our industry to Florida’s jobs & tourism economies.

It is important to note that a bill has been filed in the Senate relating to the film and television industry (SB 1576) with a companion bill in the House (HB 1345). We are studying the bills and at first glance it seems like an intriguing concept. However, at this time, with the philosophical conflict in Tallahassee, we do not believe the time is right for Film Florida to pursue a new program when the Florida House is expediting legislation designed to eliminate a multitude of economic development programs including the Office of Film and Entertainment and the sales tax exemption program all together.

When the timing is right, we have an innovative plan that will put Floridians to work at home, generate new revenues, increase tourism, and continue the state’s investment in students that earn film or digital media degrees from Florida’s world-renowned colleges, universities and technical schools. This is an important step toward growing and diversifying Florida’s economy.

While Film Florida will not be filing a bill this legislative session, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure a positive future for our industry. Many of you have asked how you can help or what should you can be doing to fight the proposed tax increase on our industry, keep the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment open, and ensure the message that Florida is open for business is heard. In an effort to not flood your email inbox we have devised a plan to make things as easy as possible for everyone to participate and contribute.

First, make sure you like Film Florida on Facebook and/or follow @FilmFlorida on Twitter. Throughout the next two months, periodically we will be posting Calls to Action on Facebook and Twitter. Within these call to action posts we will give very specific direction as to which legislators to call/email and what message you’ll need to convey to them. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to help during the two-month legislative session that starts March 7th and ends May 5th.

Today, you should go to MyFloridaHouse.gov and FLSenate.gov and find your local Representative and Senator. That way when you’re asked to contact your local legislators, you will already have those names, email addresses and phone numbers on hand.

In addition, we continue to use #EntertainThis on social media. During the Legislative Session, the content of the #EntertainThis messages are particularly important because they include specific messages. If you see a message with #EntertainThis, please make a point of it to share it (Facebook) and retweet (Twitter) to ensure our most important messages are seen and heard.

The weeks that follow will be crucial for Florida’s film, television and digital media industry. Film Florida is more prepared than ever to showcase the far reaching benefits our industry has on the state of Florida including creating jobs, spurring economic development and generating tourism. Each and every one of us has a very important role in this effort. Every phone call and e-mail sent is an important piece in ensuring our industry has a bright future.

Thank you for your continued support and engagement.