Zombies lobby in Olympia

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Makeup artist Akemi Heart of Seattle touches up the undead skin of White Center zombie David S. Hogan.

Fear stalked the Capitol Dome.

The zombie apocalypse had come to Olympia Tuesday: Mindless hunger. Relentless. A horde of lobbyists. A plague of panic, or at least a pretense of it.

A handful of humans burst into the open, running down the countless granite steps outside the Capitol, the undead swarming after them. A fleeing Angela DiMarco carried an ax. A zombie burst into her group from the left, apparently not knowing Angela is a badass. She swung that ax and zombie-boy went down big-time.

Seconds later, as several fast zombies -- not a lumberer in the bunch -- chased her friends, Angela shouted out: "We need to increase our film incentives before it's too late!"

Cut!

The video crew shot that scene over and over and over. Angela chopped that zombie's chest through so many takes that he could've eaten his own innards. Unfazed elementary school kids watched as they filed in and out of the Capitol for field trips.

Meanwhile, dozens of supporters of the Washington Filmworks Motion Picture Competitiveness Program invaded the Capitol Dome Tuesday, like zombies crashing into shopping malls in the 1978 and 2004 versions of "Dawn Of The Dead."

Their prey: Legislators. Senators and representatives who could be persuaded to vote for SB 6027, the creation of Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

Gov. Jay Inslee shrugged off the threat of tattered blood-thirsty reanimated cannibals. "I don't care how legislators dress. I respect them," he said.

Rod Hearne, at the Capitol to lobby for Equal Rights Washington, was grilled on whether his organization should represent walking dead. "Apparently, we need to work on this. Zombies are people too. I should say zombies were people too," Hearne said.

So what is SB 6027? And why would otherwise mindless zombies care?

Right now, the Washington Filmworks Motion Picture Competitiveness Program distributes refunds in investments to movie and television productions working in the state. The production finishes its work. Its finances get audited. And up to 35 percent of its investment could get returned.

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The cash comes from Washington's business-and-occupation taxes. The B&O taxpayers can designate some of their tax money to go to the Washington Filmworks fund to provide the refunds to filmmakers.

For years the maximum amount allowed in that fund has been $3.5 million a year. But Oregon has a similar program with a $12 million pool of dough, said Greg Smith, a Washington Filmworks board member. This year's $3.5 million Washington fund ran out this March. Smith said the fund ran out of cash last year in April, turning away $55 million in economic activity b for the rest of the year.

Kohl-Welles' bill to take the current $3.5 million annual tax-credit pool for in-state movie and television production and expand it to $5.25 million in 2016, $7 million in 2017, $8.5 million in 2018, and $10 million in 2019.

Right now, money means more to Inslee than the rabid rampage outside the Dome: The 2015-2017 budget. "It's a question of shoehorning these things into the budget. ... It's a question of priorities," said the governor who appears to value education over dealing with apocalyptic doom.

Right now, Kohl-Welles' bill lurks inside a chamber of horrors known as the Senate Ways & Means Committee. But, hidden within the dark recesses of the Ways & Means Committee is Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, a cosponsor of Kohl-Welles' bill.

Billig's Spokane is the home of North By Northwest Productions. And North By Northwest produces the SyFy Channel television show "Z Nation," which is about the zombie apocalypse (which might be the most spine-chilling, terrifying-to-man piece of filmmaking in the Northwest since 1993's" "Sleepless In Seattle"). So, Billig could be in a position to help breathe new life into a hometown industry -- something that provokes no horror at all in the state Legislature.

  

About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government. He can be followed on Twitter: @johnstang_8