Facing a deadline 90 minutes away and with dozens of bills to go, the Louisiana Legislature approved Thursday in quick succession bills that would change the workings of the lucrative tax credit for the film industry.
The votes gave final legislative passage to the measures which now go to the governor’s desk.
The film industry’s lobbyists in Baton Rouge generally supported the measures by Democratic Sen. J.P. Morrell, of New Orleans, which are Senate Bills 98, 100, 101, 102, 103, and 106.
The bills would restrict the number of expenses eligible for tax write-offs and make it easier for state officials to recoup money from individuals or entities that collected tax credits but were later found to have done so fraudulently.
Another measure puts a $180 million cap on the film tax credit. That measures was House Bill 829 by House Ways and Means Chairman Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, which is expected to save the state $350 million over the next five years.
Opponents of HB829, said rolling back the credit would chase away the film industry, which has made Louisiana Hollywood South. Supporters said the tax credit has become too expensive.
“I had some problems with Mr. Robideaux’s bill; serious problems,” Morrell said. in a speech on the Senate floor.
Morrell said he was “beyond disappointed” that he was not given the opportunity to share his expertise on the film tax credit, which he had been working on for two years. Instead, legislation, particularly HB829, was rushed through on the excuse that no changes could be made because of the looming session end.
“Today, I don’t feel like we’re a band of brothers, I feel like we’re packs of wolves,” Morrell told his colleagues on the Senate floor.
With Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, speed reading through the legally required script, the House voted overwhelmingly, after little discussion and no debate, Robideaux’s bill and Morrell’s package. The Senate put its stamp of approval on the measures too.
Senate Bill 100 would require the state Department of Economic Development to hire the accountant — the applicant for the tax credit would pay the fees — to conduct the review of expenditures.
Senate Bill 102 defines what expenditures could be claimed and limited the expenditures that exceeded 50 percent of the total production spending the state.
Senate Bill 103 would not allow the movie industry to claim a credit on expenditures such as airfare, bond fees, insurance premiums, finance fees and similar payments.
Senate Bill 105 would require the recovery of motion picture tax credits issued in violation of the law.
Before Thursday, the Legislature had also approved and sent to the governor.
Senate Bill 98 would create Motion Picture Broker Registry, which require criminal background checks for any person selling or brokering motion picture tax credits.
Senate Bill 101 would require the state labor department to verify the payroll and employment of Louisiana residents by those receiving tax credits.