Aug. 27--SACRAMENTO -- As legislators began to wind down their 2014 lawmaking session on Wednesday, agreements were reached on two major issues -- expansion of California's film production tax credit and regulation of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.
Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders announced agreement on a measure that would more than triple the state's existing film tax credit, to $330 million a year, and to extend it through 2022.
As other states, notably New York and Louisiana, have successfully attracted film production with the enticement of large tax credits, in-state production in one of California's signature industries has declined dramatically.
Since 2005, for instance, the California Film Commission reports that the share of television dramas produced in California has fallen by nearly half, from 65 percent to 34 percent.
For the past several years, California has offered $100 million annually in film production credits, but demand has been so great they have been snapped up on the first day they became available, and awarded by lottery because requests for credits always exceeded the available amount.
The new program will provide tax credits equal to 20 percent of qualified expenses, which include wages paid to camera operators, sound technicians, set-builders and other behind-the-screen workers but not the salaries of big-name actors. TV shows and movies filmed in parts of the state outside of Los Angeles County would receive an additional 5 percent credit.
Republican Assemblyman Scott Wilk, whose hometown of Santa Clarita has been nicknamed "Little Hollywood," said the expanded credit will not only produce additional jobs and economic activity in Southern California, but will also improve the quality of life for the thousands of families whose lives had been disrupted by out-of-state production.
Wilk recalled that when he was campaigning two years ago he regularly met families in which one spouse had been away for months at a time working on an out-of-state production.
Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben heralded the deal as a boost for the city's economy. "Film and television production creates jobs, it feeds small businesses of every kind and it generates millions of dollars in tax revenue," he said.
In the other proposed deal, representatives of ride-sharing companies dropped their opposition to a bill that would increase insurance requirements for ride-sharing companies. The bill, AB2293, was amended to lower a proposed requirement that drivers carry $500,000 in liability insurance during times when they are waiting for a ride request. It would now require $200,000 instead.
That change appeared to satisfy both ride-sharing companies and traditional taxi cab firms, but causes the state association of trial lawyers to drop its support. In a statement, the Consumer Attorneys of California said the lower requirement does not adequately protect the public against accidents that result at a time when drivers are distracted by monitoring their mobile devices looking for ride requests.
The bill also ensures that the Public Utilities Commission will have oversight over what are known as transportation network companies.
In other action Wednesday, the Assembly sent to Brown a bill that would regulate the law enforcement use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
AB1327, by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before using drones to search for evidence in criminal investigations. The measure also requires that data collected by unmanned aerial systems be destroyed within a year, and allows local jurisdictions to enact more stringent regulations.
Gorell said civilian use of unmanned systems will become increasingly common in future years.
"There are tremendous benefits that can be realized from these tools, but only if we first pass legislation that will protect our civil and privacy rights from abuse," he said.
The Legislature must end its session by midnight Sunday. Brown will have until Sept. 30 to act on all bills passed this month.
(c)2014 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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