Legislative Update, August 8, 2020

As many are aware, the South Carolina General Assembly has only met twice since the hard shutdown in March, both times to address the continuation of government for essential, public health services.

They were charged with steering $1.9 Billion from the federal government to needed areas of the state as it related to battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout this process, a process new to every person in this country and world, we have been working alongside legislators, agencies and their respective staff to feel out what a landing spot is going to look like for all of us.

In all of our conversations with decision makers, the future of The Film Office is always at the top of our agenda given the uncertainty of funding streams and the lack of agency support at PRT.

While many businesses have had to temporarily close in South Carolina, our firm is not one of those. We had to tighten our belts, but given our advocacy on behalf of large numbers of employees in film, health care, higher education, energy and other services, we have continued our push for all of your priorities.

Looking at the future for Film in the state, we have been busy in looking at better ways to fund the rebate programs. The Admissions Tax has been cratered. The numbers for next year are not out yet, but I can’t imagine another tax that has been hit harder than that which funds the film industry.

We are exploring with decision makers new ways to fund the film industry and there seems to be willingness there to explore those ideas to fill the gap left by the drastic drop in Admissions Tax. However, and again, this is such new territory for everyone that no one is willing to commit to anything until the dust begins to settle. And unfortunately, here in South Carolina, it appears the dust settling is still a ways away as case numbers continue to climb.

We did get a look at the revised budget estimates this week when the Board of Economic Advisors met, and it does appear that this year will end with a slight surplus – under 300 million. While still being in a surplus is a positive thing, that estimate is down dramatically from the approximate billion dollars in surplus money that was estimated when the budget forecasting began.

So cuts are expected, as you would imagine, but we have not yielded your seat at the table. While the cut may be less, we are still demanding that you receive a healthy portion to sustain this industry until we can all get back on our feet.

That means, for now, the Budget and your items in it are top of our priority list. Since the Film Bill, which rewrote the funding source and governance of the Film Office, was still in Ways & Means Committee and was set to get its hearing after the Budget was complete this past spring, it will not move forward in the shortened session. However, we have reassurances that it will be taken up in short order in the new session in January.

In conclusion, the Fight for the Film Industry is only delayed due to circumstances out of our control. We are hopeful that good things will happen in the Budget process this September, and we are aiming to pick up where we left off later this Fall as we prepare for a new legislative session. Let’s all just hope this national nightmare is over soon enough.

The news isn’t the best, but under the circumstances it is what it is. Legislative Committees are holding online meetings and they are talking and emailing with us. Their world is as insane and unpredictable as ours. Let’s hope there really will be a vaccine that works safely by the end of the year, and we can get it.
Best Wishes,
Linda Lee, President