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California lawmakers push new Hollywood tax credit

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Gov. Jerry Brown reached a bipartisan deal with state lawmakers Wednesday on a proposal to expand California's tax credit for Hollywood film productions, offering $330 million a year in credits to producers through a competitive bidding process.

The tax credit program would be in place for five years.

Los Angeles lawmakers had been pushing to replace the current $100 million annual tax credit, which was set to expire in 2017 and operates on a lottery system that producers say makes it hard to plan.

The deal came as other states and countries are increasingly offering incentives to lure film and TV production. California Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said in-state film production has dropped by nearly half during the past 15 years.

“If California is going to get these jobs back, we must compete with other states and nations who are clamoring for that big movie business,” he said in a news release.

The Legislature was expected to take up AB1839 by Democratic Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra and Mike Gatto of Los Angeles on Thursday, as it faces a Sunday deadline to act on bills. The lawmakers had initially sought $400 million a year in credits.

The compromise would rank applicants according to the number of jobs they expect to create and the overall economic impact of the production to California.

Critics of the current tax credit also said it is too restrictive because it allows only smaller-budget productions to apply.

The compromise legislation lifts the cap so more expensive films and TV series can be included, although only the first $100 million of those productions would be eligible for the credit. That's to ensure the entire $330 million doesn't get eaten up by a handful of blockbuster productions.

This year, the state approved 26 projects for tax credits out of the nearly 500 that applied.

Those receiving credits include the film version of the HBO series “Entourage” by Warner Bros., “The Gambler” drama by Paramount, and television series such as “Pretty Little Liars” and “Franklin & Bash.”

Once signed into law, the expanded tax credit would take effect in July 2015.

The state Legislature also acted on other Legislation as lawmakers face the Sunday deadline:

_ AB194 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, which prohibits local legislative bodies such as school boards and city councils from blocking public comments that criticize government policies or staff. It passed the Assembly 51-7 and returns to the Senate.

_ SB1266 by Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, which would require school to provide epinephrine injections for students who have allergic reactions. It passed the Assembly 68-0 and returns to the Senate.

_ AB2617 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, which prohibits contracts from forcing customers to waive their right to sue over alleged civil rights violations. It was prompted when the family of a bullied student could not sue the private school he attended because his enrollment was conditional on agreeing to take disputes to an arbitrator selected by the school. The bill passed the Assembly 45-20 and now goes to the governor.

_ AB1577 by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, which would require death certificates to reflect a deceased transgender person's gender identity. The bill passed the Senate 26-6 and goes back to the Assembly.

_ AB2029 by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, which requires coroners to notify parents of the importance of taking tissue samples after the sudden unexplained death of a child. It heads to the governor after passing the Assembly on a 70-0 vote.

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Associated Press writers Judy Lin and Fenit Nirappil also contributed to this report.

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