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Writers Push New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Sign TV Diversity Legislation

A group of prominent TV writers has urged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the television diversity bill supported by the Writers Guild of America East and the Directors Guild of America.

Cuomo has until Wednesday night to sign or veto the legislation, which has been in the works for several years. The bill was initially vetoed by the Governor back in 2017.

The legislation would provide production tax incentives to production companies that commit to maintaining a level of gender, racial and ethnic diversity among writers and directors on TV series shot in the state. Cuomo called the bill “fatally defective” after his veto because funding for the tax grants had not been appropriated. He also criticized the bill for what he described as a failure to define how the tax credit would be “calculated,” presented a lack of additional funding attached to the bill and left the questions of who would be defined as a writer and director in the business and whether the bill would be strong enough to hold up legally. A revised version of the bill designed to address Cuomo’s concerns passed in the New York State Senate and Assembly in June.

According to a statement given to Variety, eight television writers — Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese of “House of Cards,” Soo Hugh of “The Terror,” Tom Kelly of “The Purge,” Michael Rauch of “Instinct,” Matt Williams of “Home Improvement,” Brennan Shroff of “The Detour” and Stu Zicherman of “Sweetbitter” — wrote a letter to Cuomo advocating for him to sign TV Diversity Bill by Dec. 18.

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“We are showrunners and writers who write and produce television series in New York. We were all mentors in a fellowship program designed to support up-and-coming television writers with diverse backgrounds who want to work in New York,” the writers state in the letter. “Our industry has a plethora of excellent training programs aimed at supporting diversity, but what’s needed now is this bill, which puts money at the point of hire and provides women and people of color with a real chance of getting hired into writers rooms. Please Governor Cuomo – do the right thing and help make television more inclusive and equitable.”

In response to a request for comment, spokesman Jason Conwall for Governor Cuomo told Variety that “the bill is under review.”

“There were more than 900 bills that passed both houses at the end of session and over 100 bills remain under review by Counsel’s Office and the Division of the Budget. It is our responsibility to ensure that the bills, as written, are responsible, enforceable and accomplish their intended purpose,” he said.

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