I wanted to provide you with an update on what occurred in the most recent legislative session and where we go from here. While we did not secure our final goal, there were some positive signs in the session. One thing is clear – the next two years are critical for all of us, from a grassroots and education standpoint before we bring up similar bills in 2023.
The theme and focus of this regular fiscal session of the legislature were squarely on tax reform. There were dozens of tax reform-related bills that were all in competition with each other. Some sought to change how the state collects taxes or to revise the current tax brackets; others aimed to reduce or eliminate various types of sales tax. All of the bills were spearheaded by a small group of Republican legislators who were carrying influence among the body.
Every two years in a fiscal session, we are always confronted with anti-film bills from legislators in rural parts of the state where film does not have a presence. This year, there were five bills that sought to negatively impact our industry. Two of the bills singled out film, and the others were part of omnibus packages. We overwhelmingly killed all five in committee through our lobbying team, the Governor's office, our legislative allies, LFEA members, and grassroots efforts. In doing so, we made great strides in influencing new legislators, which is critically important as two-thirds of our political body are newly elected.
Our bill was sponsored by Senator Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, who is a senior member of the Senate body. The purpose was to tweak parts of the program without any fiscal impact on the state. The main components were to extend the sunset date from 2025 to 2031, increase the per production cap for features to $28M, remove the issuance reservation system, protect the 2% reinvestment fund to film-related projects, and include St. Tammany Parish in the 5% credit uplift.
In the Senate committee, we won passage without objection, but we took a few amendments that reduced sunset to 2028 and only increased the production cap on feature films to $22M. On the Senate Floor, we won passage with a vote of 34-3. And we made a real statement in the House Committee (where our lead adversary sits as a member) as we won passage without objection and no further amendments.
As our bill progressed from one chamber to the next, the environment surrounding the tax reform discussion became increasingly polarized and dysfunctional. Unfortunately, our bill got sucked into that vortex on the House Floor in the final week of session. Before our bill was to be debated on the floor, our canvas and tick sheet (where we count the votes) was overwhelmingly in our favor for passage. Yet in the moment of our hearing, there was a confluence of events that made us take pause.
Our bill got caught in the middle of some behind-the-scenes political games. At the same time, a large group of our voting block was called off the house floor and into a Senate Finance committee meeting. As a result of this, we got stuck in a procedural matter that shifted a basic majority vote to a two-thirds quorum lock-out vote. As the clock was running out, we needed 53 votes but only received 45, with 37 not in favor and 23 absent. Had our members not been drawn to the committee meeting, our bill would have passed.
So, in consultation with Senator Hewitt, the administration, and our lead House legislators, it was decided that due to the apparent in-fighting and politicization of the tax reform agenda, we would not bring our bill back up for reconsideration in an environment where we were the only pawn to toy with, so we voluntarily shelved the bill. Though it was not the outcome we envisioned, it was the correct call.
So where are we now? Our program remains unchanged, and it’s business as usual. We've conducted some postmortems with Sen. Hewitt and our other legislative leaders, who remain steadfast in pushing through our agenda in 2023. They all agree that we will continue to do our offseason work of meeting and educating the new legislators, amplifying our messaging and the positive impacts our industry has on the community and the state. We will need your help in this to cross the finish line in 2023. I’ll have more on that soon.
I hope this provided you some context of what we faced and where we are going. If you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond to each and every one. As always, thank you for fighting for film and standing with us.