A bill designed to help keep film makers in California by eliminating fees they pay for set supervision in state parks was left in committee last week and apparently is dead for this session of the Legislature.
Sponsors of the measure said they will revive it in January to try to slow the exodus of the motion picture and television industries to other states.
The demise of the bill was an unexpected victory for park rangers and environmentalists, who had argued that it would lead to deterioration of the state parks where most of the shooting is done--particularly seven in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Those seven local parks are the sites for nearly half the shooting in all state parks because of their proximity to studios and to industry employees, who must be paid extra for traveling to more distant locations. Elimination of fees for set supervision would have increased traffic by film crews, opponents of the bill said.
“We’re relieved,” said Doug Brice, executive manager of the California Park Rangers Assn. “We felt it was a very bad bill, but we didn’t think we had any chance at all of stopping it.”
Rick Parmer, president of the rangers association, said that staffing in the state park system is “already stretched to the maximum, to the breaking point in some cases, so we’re really worried about small things like this film industry bill.”
Parmer said that a recent survey shows that camping reservations at state parks have increased 30% this summer.
The bill, by Assemblyman Stan Statham (R-Redding), did not die on its merits or because of strong opposition, said Statham. It simply got lost along with dozens of other bills in the Senate Appropriations Committee during the final hectic days of the legislative session, he said.
“Without question, it will be back,” Statham said. A coalition of trade associations and entertainment-industry unions will continue to support it, he said.
The bill would have removed a requirement that movie and television companies reimburse the state for the use of rangers who monitor their operations while on location in state parks.
Companies now pay about $30 an hour for each state employee on the set. The bill would have required the state Department of Parks and Recreation to bear that expense but did not include any additional funds for the department.
“We have shown quite conclusively that the parks department is understaffed and could not have absorbed this additional workload,” said Brice. “There would have been a reduction in monitoring with resulting damage and destruction to resources.”
But Statham said the bill would have been one small step toward stopping the loss of movie production business that has been lured out of California by 40 other states. An estimated $1 billion worth of productions are shot outside of California each year.