Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
state and regional units have an important ally in dealing
with state legislative issues the Motion Picture Association
me to elaborate a bit on that relationship.
executive director of NATO of Ohio and now Mid-States NATO,
I never dreamed that I would be as involved in state legislative
issues as I am now. I have watched that portion of my job
grow from a very small role to the largest and, I dare say,
the most important part of my duties for my members.
first experience with giving testimony before a state legislative
committee came very early in my career with NATO of Ohio.
Vans Stevenson, the MPAAs senior vice president for
state legislation, called and asked me if I would join him
and representatives from the music industry and newspaper
association in testifying before a legislative committee that
was considering proposed legislation to allow all 88 counties
in Ohio to set their own obscenity standards. Being new to
the position, I was terrified but I knew this was an
important issue for my members so I agreed to go.
you are not acquainted with them already, get to know
our friends at the MPAA. We share with them a rewarding
successful partnership and one that is generously made
available to all of NATO's state and regional units.
at the office of Pete OGrady, the MPAAs Ohio lobbyist,
to discuss strategy and to determine what our chances were
of talking the committee out of approving the legislation.
Pete informed us that the committee seemed pretty determined
to pass the bill and we didnt have much of a shot at
changing their minds.
in his testimony, explained to the committee that, while we
understood the concerns of their communities with regard to
adult businesses, the language in the bill was
so broad that it would affect businesses the committee did
not intend to affect. He stated that the MPAA had constructed
some language for the bill that would satisfy the needs for
the counties with regard to X-rated bookstores and theatres
but would also not be harmful to others doing business
in their communities.
testified that I would not want to see a bill pass that would
leave my members reluctant to show important films such as
Schindlers List. Such a film could, in some
counties, be construed as obscene because of violence and
Upon listening to our testimonies, the committee decided that
it had not fully considered all of the ramifications of its
bill and agreed to work with Vans on language. One for us!
the beginning of a terrific working relationship with Vans
and the MPAA. It was the first of hundreds of times that we
would be working together to try to ensure a successful outcome
on industry-related legislation. It was also the day I realized
that we have a very important business partner in the MPAA
and that, by teaming up and working together, we presented
a very strong front for our industry.
also worked closely with Vans staff: Amy Isbell, director,
state legislation; Angela Hoyt, director of domestic tax;
and Todd Flournoy, counsel and director of state legislative
affairs. These people have never failed to help when I asked
and believe me, due to the plethora of state issues
these days, I have had to call on each of them many, many
recent opportunity to work together was on proposed
budget legislation for the state of Tennessee. Like most states
these days, Tennessee was in financial trouble and looking
for ways to line the coffers. One amendment to the budget
bill included repealing an exemption on film rental
Hoyt and MPAA lobbyist Tony Thompson set to work to educate
the legislators on the fact that the exemption
was there because Tennessee already has an entertainment tax
in place. My role was to talk to the legislators, ask my NATO
of Tennessee members to phone their legislative contacts,
and to keep my members informed of the bills progress.
Angela, Tony and I spoke daily (sometimes hourly) to monitor
the legislation and discuss what needed to be done. Fortunately,
the budget bill passed without the film rental tax. Im
convinced that both of our organizations played an important
part in the fight and neither would have been as successful
without the other.
it looks as though each and every state will be dealing with
a myriad of issues in the future taxes, censorship,
ratings, ADA, minimum wage, etc., etc., etc. Even though we
have successfully defeated some of these issues before, they
will continue to appear on state legislative agendas. Fortunately
we are not alone in our battles. Vans and his staff at the
MPAA are always at the ready to help us fight any onerous
state legislation. If you are not acquainted with them already,
get to know our friends at the MPAA. We share with them a
rewarding and successful partnership and one that is generously
made available to all of NATOs state and regional units.
To celebrate this partnership, my column concludes this month
with a few words from my good friend Vans:
Belinda has really covered the waterfront with regard
to our work on state issues that we engage together as a team.
I would add that we believe that given the federal focus on
accounting and business practices of corporate America, we
are predicting that both MPAA and NATO member companies will
be facing new legislative challenges, even at the state level.
For example, the California State Senate Judiciary Committee
has already scheduled a hearing on the accounting practices
of the music industry.
would also like to add that we would not be successful in
derailing onerous legislation that we face every year if it
wasnt for Belinda and Mid-States NATO, as well as John
Fithian and Mary Ann Grasso and all of NATO. You are the important
link we have to each state because you live, work and do business
at the grassroots level. We appreciate the long and fulfilling
partnership with NATO and as always look forward to building
upon that foundation in the future.