WTF: Florida Film Incentive Bill Could Deny Tax Credits To Films With 'Non-Traditional Family Values'

While many countries offer direct public financing for films, in the United States the primary form of public film funding comes through tax credits.

The state of Florida is considering a new tax incentive bill to draw film production to the state, and a provision in the bill would allow denial of tax breaks to films that feature 'non-traditional family values.' What does that phrase mean, exactly? No one knows.

As the Palm Beach Post reports, the $75m bill is a priority for the state's Republican majority in the House, and has already passed through one committee with unanimous approval. The House Finance and Tax Council, is next. If approved, the state's allowance for a 2% tax break for 'family-friendly' films would become a 5% break, and films could be disallowed on the basis of a very vague language.

There's an easy defense for the 'family-friendly' aspect of the bill: the state can offer tax breaks to whatever films it wants, right? Theoretically, yes. But if the legislation is being used to promote a narrow, unrealistic vision of 'family', does it cross the line? I think so. Is that really the point of the bill? One supporter, state representative Stephen Precourt (R-Orlando), wants to recreate Mayberry on film. Literally.

"Think of it as like Mayberry," Rep. Precourt said. "That's when I grew up — the '60s. That's what life was like. I want Florida to be known for making those kinds of movies: Disney movies for kids and all that stuff. Like it used to be, you know?"

Asked whether gay characters would disallow a production, Precourt said, "That would not be the kind of thing I'd say that we want to invest public dollars in."

Here's the relevant portion of the bill, with a section bolded by me for emphasis:

A certified production determined by the Commissioner of Film and Entertainment, with the advice of the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council, to be family-friendly...Family-friendly productions are those that have cross-generational appeal; would be considered suitable for viewing by children age 5 or older...and do not exhibit or imply any act of smoking, sex, nudity, nontraditional family values, gratuitous violence, or vulgar or profane language. Under the current incentive program, review of the final release version is not required and nontraditional family values, gratuitous violence, and implied acts do not exclude a film from receiving this additional credit.

The problem is that 'non-traditional family values' is far too vague. Rep. Precourt's statements suggest that is a euphemism for 'no gay characters,' because that prohibition would clearly raise objections. I can't see how the language can be allowed to stand in a legal document as is, but Florida is already low on the list of gay-tolerant governments. As ThinkProgress says, "Florida has no statewide law prohibiting discrimination; its constitution prohibits gay marriage; and, it is the only state in the union that forbids gays from adopting children."

Another lawmaker, Rep. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington), wants to change the wording, and has a proposal for something that should be more acceptable: "To avoid a social argument, I think we can truly simplify that by simply saying a G-rated production," Abruzzo said. "That would be family friendly and good for all ages."