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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 29, 2012 6 years ago

Capitol Chatter: June 29

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The weekly roundup of what's happening in government and how it affects business.
by: Rod Thomson Staff Writer

A film industry lobbyist said what about Scott?
Florida's film industry is trying to organize as one voice to pursue a more lucrative incentive program in hopes of luring more productions.

Miami is the major movie and television production hub in Florida, but Tampa, Sarasota and other Gulf Coast cities have been getting a growing portion of the pie. It's a competitive industry from the state standpoint, because many other states have become aggressive about luring these productions.

Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina have all passed Florida in film industry production largely on the back of generous benefits given to film companies to choose those states.

So the film industry in Florida is fighting back and organized into the Congress of Motion Picture Associations of Florida, or COMPASS. They argue that Florida's $8 million cap on tax credits per project and the state's sunset clause in the incentive program are two weak areas — areas where they lose film productions to other states that have no cap and have permanent programs.

Clearly COMPASS has some work ahead of it in Tallahassee to smooth the way for trying to pass those changes in the Legislature and at the governor's office. So it is a bit mystifying to hear the comments of one lobbyist hired by COMPASS to help in this process.

Fausto Gomez, who COMPASS retained to lobby in Tallahassee, called Gov. Rick Scott a “last-century smokestack chaser,” and said it will be hard to persuade the governor to make film tax credits a priority over attracting traditional employers.

Yeah, maybe so. But it might be impossible when you start off by name-calling the guy who can veto what you want with one signature. Somebody might want to re-think their strategy.

Newspapers add context — in one direction
The state's two largest and maybe most respected daily newspapers went to some length recently to show that Gov. Rick Scott's boasts about the state's falling unemployment rate were skewed.

But was the reporting also skewed?

Scott dismissed a poll showing his approval rating at 39%, saying, “The number that I look at every month is our unemployment rate, and as you know we're bucking a national trend ...We've come down 2.5% in the last several months. The federal number is down .8 or .9%.”

At that, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times pointed out that Scott is technically right but misleading. They used a report from the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research to show that most of the decline in Florida's unemployment numbers — about 75% -- is due to people leaving the work force.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that, “put in true perspective,” the unemployment drop of 1.2 percentage points since December would only be a drop of .3% if the labor force had stayed the same size. That, the papers pointed out, suggests Scott is overstating the accomplishment.

However, their “true perspective” did not include doing the same thing with the federal numbers. If they had done that, they would have found the same thing happening nationally, except at a faster rate. In one month, in January, more than 1.25 million people dropped out of the national labor force. In May, 342,000 dropped out and these are accounting for the falling national unemployment rate.

If the adult labor force participation rate were the same today as when the recession ended in June 2009, the national unemployment rate would be 10.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is about 2.5 percentage points higher than it is now.

Scott unpopular; Scott policies popular
Speaking of Scott's popularity ratings -- yes, they're low. But some polling suggests they may be more a reflection of his relatively poor political abilities than his policies.

While his approval stands at 49% disapproval and 39% approval, two of the supposedly most controversial issues he backs are actually popular.

A Quinnipiac University poll found that his attempt to purge the rolls of illegal voters is supported by Floridians by a huge 60-35% margin. (Interestingly, blacks oppose the purge 56-38% while Hispanics are more closely divided, with 42% favoring and 49% opposing.)

In the other hot-button issue for the media, voters approve of the stand-your-ground law by 56-37%. This issue blew up after the Trayvon Martin shooting, and the reporting that followed it. The law removes the requirement to retreat in the face of attack rather than respond with deadly force.

Scott takes a shellacking in news coverage, but on at least some policies, he seems in sync with Floridians.

Scott navigates illegals and business

When Gov. Rick Scott ran for office, one of his campaign themes was to go after illegal immigration and require employers to use E-Verify to ensure that they are hiring people in Florida legally.

But after getting an earful from businesses, particularly citrus growers and other agriculture businesses, Scott decided it would put Florida at a competitive disadvantage to unilaterally impose E-Verify and said two weeks ago he would not pursue it.

However, last week he said that he still believes in the principle of weeding out the illegal residents in the country and urged a national system requiring E-Verify or something similar to determine a worker's residence status.

It's a lesson in navigating the politics of being a single state in a union with 49 other states while trying to maintain personal principles.

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