Maryland lawmakers, facing threat of "House of Cards" leaving, fail to agree on film tax credit hike

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The General Assembly has failed to reach an agreement to pass legislation to hike the money available for the state's film tax credit.

With around two hours to go in the 2014 General Assembly, the Senate voted to not concur with changes made by the House to Senate Bill 1051. A conference committee was assigned, but ultimately lawmakers from both chambers were never able to agree on a deal before midnight.

The House wanted legislation that would allocate $11 million from the general fund for the credits. In addition, the House wanted to draw $7.5 million from the state's Sunny Day Fund and Cultural Arts Fund to make $18.5 available for film production activity.

The Senate had proposed drawing the full $18.5 million for the credit out of the general fund alone.

Now only $15 million will be available for the fund by way of $7.5 mllion in the general fund and $7.5 million from the state's Sunny Day Fund and Cultural Arts Fund.

The two chamber's failure to reach an agreement stemmed from a House Ways and Means committee amendment that would have allowed the Department of Business and Economic Development, or DBED, to revoke money from a film production company if the company moved its film production activity outside of the state.

The Senate did not like the clause and wanted it out, Sen. Ed DeGrange, D-Glen Burnie, told conferees from the opposite chamber. But the House wasn't willing to let it go.

A conference lasted until 11:50 p.m. without a resolution. DeGrange accused Del. Frank Turner, D-Howard, and conferees from the House of "running the clock out."

Its unclear if the assembly's failure to act will cause Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Media Rights Capital, which films "House of Cards" in Maryland, to leave the state.

An executive at the show's production company wrote legislative leaders in February to inform them the show would consider leaving Maryland if the money didn't keep flowing.

Charlie Goldstein, senior vice president of television production for Media Rights Capital, wrote legislative leaders in February to say that the show had pushed back its filming schedule for its third season to see if lawmakers would boost tax credits.

"In the event that sufficient incentives do not become available, that gives us time to break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state," Goldstein wrote to House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis.

In March, "House of Cards" star Kevin Spacey socialized with lawmakers at Red Red Wine Bar in Annapolis as they considered whether to hike the amount Maryland would hand out.

The "House of Cards" series is already on track to be granted $30 million in tax credits through fiscal 2016, according to the state.