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House budget panel votes to gets tougher on public contributions to pro teams

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A bill that would ban professional sports teams from building or refurbishing stadiums on public land passed the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday on a 21-8 vote.

CS/HB 77, by Bryan Avila, says “a sports franchise may not construct, reconstruct, renovate, or improve a facility on public land leased from the state or a political subdivision thereof.”

The bill — one of a number targeting professional sports — also says the sale of public land for sports stadiums must be at fair market value.

Furthermore, teams would have to assume public debt undertaken for their facilities if they move away.

Sports franchises are highly successful businesses, Avila said.

“They are more than capable of acquiring that land by raising the capital necessary,” he said.

Florida is home to 10 professional sports franchises, of which eight would be affected — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lightning, and Rays; the Florida Panthers and Marlins; the Miami Heat; the Jacksonville Jaguars; and the Orlando Magic.

Pro teams, with their highly paid legal talent, too often take advantage of local officials, Republican Michael Bileca said.

“The advantage always goes to the owners of the franchises,” he said.

Teams with existing leases would be grandfathered under the bill.

Sen. Greg Steube has a companion bill in the Senate. Another measure, SB 236, by Sen. Tom Lee, would dismantle tax subsidies for professional sports facilities.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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