An effort to require sports teams vying for taxpayer money for stadium projects to face more competition and scrutiny stalled, then advanced Thursday afternoon in the Florida Senate.
After more than 30 minutes of debate, the bill was temporarily postponed when Senate President Don Gaetz said he was “getting mixed signals” Thursday morning.
Senate sponsor Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater looked mystified but acquiesced.
With little comment, the measure was recalled late in the afternoon and advanced for a final vote Friday.
Under the measure, the state Department of Economic Opportunity would evaluate projects on their economic impact. They would have to involve at least $100 million in construction, and priority would be given to new franchises.
“Everybody has an equal chance to apply and that takes a lot of the politics and special interests out of it,” Latvala said prior to the postponment.
The measure would impact the proposals for new Major League Soccer stadiums in Orlando and Miami, as well as renovations already underway at Daytona International Speedway.
Florida gives out millions in sales-tax rebates to most of its MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL teams, and virtually every year franchises like the Florida Marlins and Miami Dolphins come to Tallahassee to fight for more.
Under the proposed legislation:
--Projects valued at $200 million or more would be eligible for up to $3 million a year
--Projects valued between $200 and $100 million would be eligible for up to $2 million a year
--Projects valued at less than $100 million would be eligible for up to $1 million a year
Soccer superstar David Beckham already paid a visit to the state Capitol earlier this session to lobby for the bill. He is leading the effort to see an MLS stadium built on waterfront property in Miami.
Last week, the House passed its version (HB 7095) on a 93-16 vote.
It would allow both MLS expansion franchises, along with Daytona Speedway, rodeos, minor-league baseball, and other sports teams to compete for $12 million annually.
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, amended the bill so that major or minor league baseball teams would be prohibited from competing for money unless they protect Cuban refugees.
The language was inspired by Los Angeles Dodgers player Yasiel Puig, who was smuggled from Cuba to Mexico and held for ransom as part of his quest to play in the major leagues.
“Major league baseball either knowingly, or perhaps unknowingly, has been part of what has essentially become a major human-trafficking scheme,” Flores said. “We have an incredible opportunity to right this wrong saying: ‘This is something we’re not going to allow anymore.’”
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