The Homeland Security Department would say goodbye to Hollywood and eliminate a consultant tasked with boosting the agency’s image under a $31.8 billion spending plan the House approved Tuesday.
The House plan, which passed 424-1, allocates nearly two-thirds of the department’s money for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 to protect U.S. land borders, airports and seaports and to enforce immigration laws.
It also would eliminate a White House proposal to raise airline passenger fees by $3 per ticket to pay for $1.7 billion worth of security enhancements.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was the lone dissenter.
The Hollywood provision was one of more than a dozen amendments offered during a day of debate in the House.
On second thought
Instead of paying an annual salary of at least $100,000 to actress Bobbie Faye Ferguson, lawmakers agreed to transfer the money to state and local first responders.
Ferguson, a former NASA spokeswoman who appeared in the TV shows “Designing Women” and “The Dukes of Hazzard,” was hired by the department in October to review script proposals and help Hollywood moviemakers portray homeland security operations on the silver screen.
“We should direct this money to actually help the people who respond and save lives,” said Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., who offered the amendment.
No lawmakers spoke in favor of the Hollywood consulting position.
At least a half-dozen agencies — from the FBI to the Pentagon — have Hollywood consultants on the federal payroll to give movie and TV show scriptwriters insight on government operations, said Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse. Ferguson coordinates hundreds of requests the department and all of its branches receive, he said.
“This is a similar function that numerous other federal agencies possess, and is necessary in helping those in multimedia make their projects as accurate as possible in order to provide the public with a better understanding of the department’s activities,” Roehrkasse said.
INS no more
Some movies, for example, continue to refer to the “Immigration and Naturalization Service” — an agency that ceased to exist when Homeland Security was created in March 2003.
Musgrave said the money would be better spent on escape hoods, bulletproof vests, emergency PA systems or hazardous material protective suits for first responders.
The House bill also includes $100 million to help states comply with minimum identification standards for driver’s licenses as required under the newly passed REAL ID Act.
The Senate is still working on a homeland security budget bill.