lights, camera...?

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Tennessee has drawn one step closer to challenging its neighboring states for a bigger slice of the Southeast's lucrative film and TV business. On Tuesday, bills were introduced in the state House and Senate to create an incentives package for film and television production—a package comparable to those in Georgia and Louisiana, and almost identical to one proposed Feb. 1 by a state-convened committee of industry professionals and government officials. Sponsored respectively by Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. John J. DeBerry, bills SB3513 and HB3356 can be found in full detail here and here.

Don't rent those tuxes just yet. The bills contain two sticking points liable to raise caution flags. One, found in Section 3, is a provision that gives "a motion picture production company" a full refund of sales and use taxes. Trouble is, it apparently doesn't specify how much the company has to spend to qualify—unlike the state's current provision, which kicks in after a production spends $500,000. Nor, apparently, does it distinguish between in-state and out-of-state companies.

The other is the controversial practice of transferable tax credits. Used by many states as a lure, transferable tax credits allow visiting production companies to sell their tax breaks at a discount to in-state businesses. Under the proposed package, Tennessee would offer film and TV companies up to a 22-percent credit, including provisions for spending and in-state hiring. But debate continues whether transferable credits are pitting states against each other in a poker game, with Hollywood as the winner—and no ends to the raises in sight.

The important thing is that the state is finally addressing a problem it has put off for too many years, at a measurable loss of tens of millions of dollars. Expect a lively debate in coming weeks.

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