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Rep. Cardenas, others protest higher fees for filming on public lands

Rep. Cardenas, others protest higher fees for filming on public lands
Rep. Tony Cardenas, then a Los Angeles councilman, gives turkeys to constituents in Sun Valley before Thanksgiving last year. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

A plan to double film permit fees on public lands has produced a rare moment of bipartisanship in Washington.

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) joined more than 50 other representatives from both sides of the aisle this week, sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture requesting that fees for filming on public lands not be increased.

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The departments, squeezed by budget cuts, are considering a plan that would double filming fees.

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Cardenas and a bipartisan group of representatives contend the higher fees would drive more production out of the country.

They wrote to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, saying that although "there is no question that filmmakers understand the need to pay their fair share to use our public resources, we are concerned that the proposed increase will further facilitate film production outside the United States."

"This is a very simple request that our government treat these American businesses fairly," Cardenas said. "Our cities and municipalities are struggling to maintain revenue as it is. Our government agencies should not push filmmakers away from home, hurting jobs and our economy."

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On average, a major motion picture spends more than $225,000 each day "on location," benefiting small businesses in the filming area, the legislators said.

Chris Dodd, chief executive of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, added: "The MPAA has long supported the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture's ability to collect reasonable fees for filming on public lands to ensure that taxpayers are never burdened. The proposed increase, however, would discourage the very filming that is bringing the parks revenue."

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Twitter: @rverrier

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