SC lawmakers hope incentives will woo TV series to state

abeam@thestate.comApril 23, 2013 

— House lawmakers on Tuesday agreed to fast-track a bill that would increase tax rebates for movies and TV shows in an attempt to woo a CBS legal drama to film in Charleston.

“Reckless” has already filmed its pilot episode in Charleston. The show’s producers must decide by mid-May whether to shoot in South Carolina or Georgia, which offers more money than South Carolina, said Rep. Phyllis Henderson, R-Greenville.

“Basically, they said, ‘We can just as easily move this to Savannah. It’s got the same historical scenery,’ ” Henderson said. “That’s basically one of the reasons why we wanted to try to get (the bill passed) in the next week or so.”

Deadline Hollywood described the show as a “sultry legal show set in Charleston, South Carolina, where a gorgeous Yankee litigator and a Southern city attorney struggle to hide their intense attraction while clashing over a police sex scandal.” Henderson said the show “has a good chance it will get picked up” for the fall season but noted that “just because we pass (this bill) doesn’t necessarily mean it is definitely going to happen.”

Even if the House and Senate can pass the bill in the next few weeks, it’s unclear if Republican Gov. Nikki Haley would sign it. The governor and other GOP leaders just finished a campaign to borrow $120 million and give it to Boeing to help expand its facility in North Charleston and, according to company officials, hire 2,000 more people. Haley signed that bill into law on Tuesday.

But Haley has opposed other tax incentives, including an incentive used to lure online retailer to Lexington County in 2011. A spokesman said Tuesday Haley and her staff are “watching the bill as it goes through the process.”

South Carolina already pays production companies a rebate of 15 percent of whatever they spend on wages and supplies purchased in South Carolina. The bill would increase those rebates to 30 percent for supplies and 20 percent for wages – 25 percent if the employees live in South Carolina.

Production companies would only get the money on two conditions: they spend at least $1 million in South Carolina, and South Carolina has enough money to pay them. Last year, lawmakers spent $6 million of the $10 million lawmakers set aside for movie and TV show rebates, according to the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

If “Reckless” films in South Carolina, it could spend between $60 million $70 million per year, according to Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown.

The Senate has already passed the bill, and the House Ways and Means Committee has approved a similar version of it. Tuesday, House lawmakers voted to add the Senate bill to the House agenda, bypassing the committee process in an attempt to get the bill passed quickly.

Supporters of the bill said, “Reckless” or not, the increased tax incentives need to pass in order to keep the state competitive in the film industry.

“Today’s vote was not about a single business, it was about supporting an industry that is eager to do business in South Carolina,” Carolina Film Alliance President Richard Futch said in a news release. “It indicates that South Carolina values the millions of dollars that film companies spend with local South Carolina small business, such as hardware stores, restaurants and dry cleaners – attracting serious capital investment to create jobs, grow the economy, and showcase South Carolina’s geographic beauty to the world on the big screen.”

From 2007 to 2011, South Carolina paid rebates to nine film productions, including “Army Wives,” the drama series on the Lifetime network, filmed in Charleston, now in its seventh season. The state has paid $21 million in wage and supplier rebates to the productions, according to a 2011 study prepared for the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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