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The fate of Florida's film industry is up in the air as lawmakers debate entertainment office

A scene from the Oscar-winning 'Moonlight' being filmed in Miami Beach. It chose to film in South Florida desipte the fact that it did not got incentives.
David Bornfriend/A24 Films
A scene from the Oscar-winning 'Moonlight' being filmed in Miami Beach. It chose to film in South Florida desipte the fact that it did not got incentives.

Lawmakers questioned the fate of an office that seeks to bolster the entertainment industry in Florida, as the House moves to eliminate the state’s business-recruitment agency and a series of economic-development programs.

The House Commerce Committee voted 16-3 to move forward with a priority (HB 5) of House Speaker Paul Renner to close the doors on the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida. Several lawmakers raised concerns about including the Office of Film and Entertainment, which provides services to Florida’s entertainment industry, in a list of programs and incentives that would be repealed.

Rep. Allison Tant, D-Tallahassee, said the office’s repeal could affect Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts.

“FSU has an enormously successful, one of the best film schools in the country. We generate a lot of talent from that school,” said Tant, who was among the three lawmakers who voted against the bill. “And furthermore, there are people here, who live here, who were just in the famous movie ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ and as well as ‘Bloodline,’ that was done in Florida under all of this. So, these opportunities for us in Florida generate both jobs and commerce.”

READ MORE: South Florida's Film Industry Is Dying. What Can Save It?

With Renner saying Enterprise Florida and other economic-development efforts have “outlived their usefulness,” the bill calls for repealing 25 programs and incentives. Enterprise Florida’s duties would be moved to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Bill sponsor Tiffany Esposito, R-Fort Myers, said programs and incentives targeted for repeal have low returns on investments. But she said discussions are ongoing about the Office of Film and Entertainment on “how, or if, we move that over to DEO (the Department of Economic Opportunity).”

A report by the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research listed six incentives and investments, from among 29 offered by the state, that provided more than a $1 return for each $1 spent.

The Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption program returned 49 cents for each $1 invested, and the Entertainment Industry Financial Incentives Program tax credits drew 7 cents per $1.

READ MORE: New Florida Film Industry Leader Thinks Show Biz Can Give State’s Lagging Economy A Boost

Rep. Kristen Arrington, D-Kissimmee, said lawmakers should consider more than just the return on investment, as many incentive programs provide “significant benefits” through capital investments, wages and jobs.

Esposito said the state Revenue Estimating Conference, a panel of economists, is expected to estimate the fiscal impact of the proposed changes before the bill goes to the House Appropriations Committee. The bill will need to clear the Ways & Means Committee before going to the Appropriations Committee.

The proposal would allow the tourist-marketing agency Visit Florida and the Florida Sports Foundation to enter agreements to continue operations under the guidance of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

A separate measure also moving in the House seeks to shift programs within Space Florida to the Department of Economic Opportunity and to give the governor more control over Space Florida’s board of directors.

Jim Turner is a reporter for the News Service of Florida.
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