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Shows with LGBT characters may be denied tax credit in Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A state legislator has proposed a bill that would give tax incentives for movies and TV shows that promote “family friendly” themes and prohibit sex, nudity, smoking, profanity and LGBT characters.

State Rep. Stephen Precourt, a Republican from Orlando whose district includes Walt Disney World, said the bill does not target gays and lesbians but instead encourages “family friendly” shows.

"Think of it as like Mayberry," Precourt told The Palm Beach Post, referring to “The Andy Griffith Show.”

"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?"

The so-called “family friendly” bill, which was tucked away into a $75 million incentive package, has ignited a furor across the state and within the entertainment industry. Critics say that the bill is promoting discrimination and causing a backlash against the Sunshine State’s struggling entertainment industry.

Precourt told The Associated Press he simply believes that taxpayer dollars should not be invested in movies and TV programs that show homosexuality in a positive light.

Florida, once the third-busiest in the U.S. behind California and New York in producing movies and TV shows, has slipped far behind in recent years. Other states have become more aggressive in attracting the entertainment business by offering lucrative tax benefits and other incentives.

The proposed bill in Florida would boost current tax credits from 2 percent to 5 percent of production costs for movies and TV shows that are considered "family friendly."

The bill says: "Family-friendly productions are those that have cross-generational appeal; would be considered suitable for viewing by children age 5 or older; are appropriate in theme, content, and language for a broad family audience; embody a responsible resolution of issues; and do not exhibit or imply any act of smoking, sex, nudity, nontraditional family values, gratuitous violence, or vulgar or profane language."

Three of the hottest shows on TV with Florida connections - “Dexter” on Showtime, “Burn Notice” on USA and “CSI: Miami” on CBS – would not qualify for the tax incentives because of their content.

Republicans hold the majority in the state House of Representatives and hope to ramrod the bill through passage, saying they hope it would bring more entertainment-industry jobs to Florida.

Gay rights groups condemn the proposed legislation, saying it subsidizes discrimination.

"Instituting 1950s-style movie censorship does nothing to support real-life families or help Florida's struggling economy," said Ted Howard, executive director for Florida Together, a coalition of 80 groups that advocate for equal rights.