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Texas, Nevada Make Big Plays for More Hollywood Business

As a fan of Stephen King’s massive tales of societal collapse and the aftermath (“The Stand” and “Under the Dome”), I was excited for the debut of “Under the Dome” on CBS but equally apprehensive, given past TV treatments of his work. But so far “Under the Dome” has been excellent, and I recently read a piece about life on the set.

In the article, writer Richard Rushfield mentions the flip-flopping history of movie and television tax credits in North Carolina, where the Maine-based series has been filmed. And that made me wonder what other states have been doing this year to entice Hollywood studios. (Sorry for the long set-up.)

The majority of states offer tax and rebate incentives to attract the movie and TV industries, and the Motion Picture Association of America has a handy chart describing each program. But it has not been updated for all the 2013 activity. For example, the Nevada Legislature passed legislation this year appropriating $20 million in tax incentives for producing movies, TV or online series, and video games in the Silver State. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) signed the bill last month.

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Deceptive Floral Advertising

Consumers spend millions of dollars each year ordering “local” roses, lilies, daffodils, and floral displays from thousands of websites all across the states. Most online sites simply gather the order, charge an extra fee to the customer, and then contact a local florist to deliver flowers. Local in this context means the flowers come from a local merchant even if the online florist is thousands of miles away.

Some online florists advertise that they are “local,” and this is interpreted to mean the website is actually located in the community where the flowers originated. The issue has been hotly debated in state legislatures for two years now as lawmakers attempt to sort out whether advertising associated with these sales is deceptive. Predictably local florists and their national competitors are on opposite sides of this issue.

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One Step Closer

What a week it has been in politics. Just when we had started to believe that inaction and regressive social policy could become the norm, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and even the Texas Legislature showed us that it’s still possible for government bodies to do what they’re supposed to do – reflect the needs and concerns of our people, even those who have historically been marginalized and disenfranchised.  And today, the Senate’s passage of S. 744, which recognizes that immigration reform is good for our economy, our democracy, and our society, has created what I hope is unstoppable momentum.

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Fuel Efficient and Hybrid Cars Reduce State Gas Revenues; States Look for Alternative Funding Sources

State gas taxes that fund everything from new roads, bridges and paving to bike paths, mass transportation and light rail declined from $40.7 billion in 2004 to $37.9 billion in 2010, according to inflation-adjusted data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a research group in Washington. The decline will continue and the slope downward is expected to get steeper as consumers increasingly drive fuel efficient, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles.

The Obama administration has mandated higher fuel efficiency standards; cars must average 54.5 mpg by 2025.  Meanwhile, consumers have howled about the price of gas which now averages about $3.58 per gallon but at times has been higher than $4 per gallon. The lower price, while better for consumers, is bad for the states because it means less tax revenue. In California, the gas tax has climbed from 36 cents per gallon to 39.5 cents per gallon recently and state officials said explicitly that the state’s environmental policies, which mandate greater fuel efficiency, have reduced revenues.

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‘Tim Tebow Bill’ Headlines Home-Schooling Issues Addressed in 2013

Public and private schools are wrapping up for the year, giving teachers and students a well-earned break. The summer offers an opportunity for administrators and parents to step back and examine what went well and what didn’t go well. It’s also a good time to look at what the legislatures have been doing on education issues. Today, we’ll look at home-schooling.

Arkansas has been particularly busy on the issue in 2013, enacting at least two bills addressing equality for home-schooled children.  First came HB 1629, which guarantees equal access to Governor’s Scholar Program awards. That was followed by HB 1789 — more commonly known as the Tim Tebow Bill — allowing home-schoolers to participate in  interscholastic activities (like sports). Other states passed similar bills, named for the famed college quarterback, this year including Colorado and Tennessee. More than two dozen states now allow home-schooled children to participate in school sports. A version of the bill made it through the Texas Senate but died in a House committee.

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