Originally posted on The Tampa Tribune website:
This year’s film and entertainment tax credits bill was suddenly yanked off the House’s agenda Wednesday, but its sponsor says it still has legs this session. The measure (HB 451) was set to be discussed on the floor Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a vote, but was “temporarily postponed.” That can spell trouble for a bill, usually that there’s not enough votes. State Rep. Mike Miller, a Winter Park Republican, told the Tribune/Naples Daily News Capital Bureau the bill’s temporary withdrawal “was purely a timing issue … to coincide with what’s happening in the Senate.”
A companion measure (SB 1046) carried by state Sen. Nancy Detert, a Venice Republican, still must clear that chamber’s Appropriations committee before heading to the floor. It has won approval from two previous panels, however, without a single ‘no’ vote.
Miller’s bill has had a rockier road to the House floor, garnering a total of 12 votes against it over its three committee hearings. He said he expects his bill will be back on the agenda next Tuesday.
Proponents say passing an incentives package this year will boost the film industry in Tampa Bay. Brad Furman, director of the upcoming feature “The Infiltrator,” has said he would have scheduled 90 percent of his 46 shooting days in the Tampa area if state tax incentives had been available. Tampa/Hillsborough County Film Commissioner Dale Gordon said this many shooting days could have injected up to $20 million into the local economy.
The issue: In recent years, many House Republicans have been leery of measures that looks like tax money giveaways, though it wasn’t always like that. The Legislature allocated $296 million in film incentives for 2010-2016, but all that money has been awarded. A move to replenish the pot, allocating $50 million to $250 million per year, died in 2014. Critics objected, in part, to rules that distribute the money on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Some thought if we were more conservative there would be money left,” Gordon said. “This new legislation focuses on that.”
“The Infiltrator” is based on the true story of a DEA agent posing as a Tampa businessman to bust a financial institution laundering millions of dollars for Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Now, scenes that might have been shot in Tampa are being filmed in London, home to the movie’s production company, Good Films, and where government incentives reach as high as 25 percent of costs. The movie instead has eight days of principal photography scheduled in Hillsborough County, with the filmmakers receiving a $250,000 county incentive in return for spending $1 million in the county.
Other movies could follow, including “Live By Night,” a film by Ben Affleck based on a book by Dennis Lehane about Prohibition-era rum running in Ybor City. Production is set to begin later this year, by some reports as early as July.
Under the bills, films are capped at receiving $8 million back and only on what they spent in the state. At least 60 percent of a production’s workforce, while it is in Florida, must be Florida residents. Any incentive money is given after production is complete and a “double audit” is completed to prove in-state expenditures – that is, one audit by the production company and one by the state.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli confirmed that Miller’s bill will return.
“We have every intention of bringing that bill along,” the Merritt Island Republican told reporters after Wednesday’s floor session.
When asked if it was “a votes issue,” Crisafulli said “no.”
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