Frank Underwood, the legislative mastermind of "House Of Cards" who always seems to get his way, might have admired the actions of the Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday if they were not directed against the show he stars in.
The show has been threatening to leave Maryland if the state doesn't pass more tax credits and has put off filming Season 3, so one legislator introduced a threat of his own. Del. Bill Frick (D-Montgomery) introduced a budget amendment, which was passed with little debate and no roll-call vote, to allow the state to seize the production company's property under eminent domain if it decamps for another state.
Frick said he was inspired by the Netflix series. "Frank would not respond by just cutting them a larger check," he told WBAL, a Maryland radio station. "That's not what Frank Underwood would do. So, to me, it required a little bit of hardball, and that was hardball."
The amendment does not specifically mention the show, but it can only be applied to a production company that has claimed more than $10 million in tax credits. "House Of Cards" has claimed $26.6 million in tax credits, according to The Washington Post, far more than the show "Veep," which is also filmed in the state.
It allows "the Department of Business and Economic Development, under certain circumstances, to exercise certain powers of eminent domain to acquire by purchase or condemnation certain property of certain film production entities that cease film production activity in the State; requiring that certain proceedings be conducted in a certain manner; authorizing, under certain circumstances, that certain property may be taken immediately on payment for the property in a certain manner."
The threat has precedent in Maryland. The Baltimore Colts left the city in the middle of the night for Indianapolis on March 28-29, 1984, after Gov. Harry Hughes signed a bill allowing the city to seize the NFL team's property under eminent domain. The signature was too late. The city tried to file suit, but a federal judge rejected the claim.
But the state may still give the show the money. The state Senate has already passed language giving the state $18.5 million to give out in tax credits, an increase from $7.5 million. The House hasn't acted on the measure.
Meanwhile, in another act of life imitating art, Kevin Spacey, who plays Underwood, wooed legislators Saturday over crab balls, filet mignon skewers and themed cocktails in Annapolis. The event, which was closed to the press, was documented by legislators who posted photos of themselves with Spacey on Facebook.