Two dueling California bills to reform movie and TV safety in wake of October 2021 Rust the shoot that left cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead was stalled after they entered the same Senate committee.
Sen. Anthony Portantino’s SB 829 and Sen. Dave Cortese’s SB 831 are “held in committee” in the California Senate Appropriations Committee after they both had a committee hearing on Thursday. (“Held in committee” generally means that bills have not received enough votes to leave the committee and continue the legislative process.) According to Portantino, the chairman of the appropriations committee, development is essentially the result of a lack of collaboration between various stakeholders. Portantino said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that he “strongly encouraged major entertainment interests to work collaboratively to come up with a consensual approach to resolving any issues that may have come to light as a result of the Rust tragedy” and was “extremely disappointed when they collectively failed to meet the challenge I had issued”.
Portantino added: “Rather than drafting a one-sided solution, I decided it was best to reiterate the challenge by taking the two non-consensual bills to committee. If there was an agreement to come, I would be willing and willing to review it before the end of the legislative session.
In his own statement on the development, Cortese said, “It’s a powerful and unforgiving industry. First the industry killed Halyna. Then they killed the bill that would have made people like her safe. He added: “Despite the setbacks, I am committed to real reforms that will protect our workers.”
While both bills call for greater regulation of firearms and blanks on set as well as safety training, SB 829 seeks to require a fire code official to be present during use of firearms and blanks and to require the state’s Office of the Fire Marshal to develop safety courses for crew members, while SB 831 seeks to address a wider range of security issues by requiring a “fixed security supervisor”. The Safety Supervisor would be an independent employee responsible for doing a risk assessment before each production and attending the set daily, with the authority to suspend production if deemed necessary.
Support for both bills was split between management and labor: The Motion Picture Association backed Portantino’s bill, while the Directors Guild of America, California IATSE Council, Hollywood Teamsters, SAG-AFTRA and other labor groups supported Cortese’s bill. THR contacted various supporters for comment.
The MPA said in a statement Friday that it remains “committed to working with the California Legislature, as well as our union and guild partners, to improve gun safety on movie sets by building on on our already robust industry-wide protocols.”
In a recent THR history of the two bills, Melissa Patack, MPA vice president, state and local government affairs, said her organization supports SB 829 because “the emphasis is on training, and businesses MPA members believe this should be the priority,” as well as creating pre-existing best practices and policies as the legal standard in California. On the other side, IATSE Local 600 National Executive Director Rebecca Rhine, to whom the local Hutchins belonged, said, “There are many protocols in our industry, there are many safety bulletins.” She added: “What we think is that there is a need to connect all these rules and protocols to the actual workflow in the field. And we believe the security supervisor is the piece that does that.
Two recent analyzes by the California Senate Appropriations Committee estimated that SB 831 would cost approximately $575,000 in the first year and $555,000 for the next two years to deploy; SB 831 would result in “unknown costs”, but potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars for proper staffing of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and would result in “unknown cost pressures” for the courts.
May 20, 11:42 a.m. Updated with an MPA statement.