Last month, this blog was highly critical of state Senator Jack Latvala’s opposition to including the North American Soccer League, the soccer league which includes St. Pete’s Rowdies, in a bill that would require the state Department of Economic Opportunity to set up an evaluation process for local governments seeking sales-tax rebates to attract or retain professional sports teams through stadium improvements and construction.
At a March meeting of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, Senator Latvala led his colleagues in voting down an amendment that would have added the NASL to the pool of potential beneficiaries eligible for state funding. Latvala said at the time that he had not been given sufficient time to properly review the amendment. He also stated that he was unsure as to what the North American Soccer League was and whether it is classified as a “major league sports league.”
Fortunately, Senator Latvala has reversed course and is now coming through for St. Pete soccer fans.
Before the Legislature recessed for the Passover-Easter holiday, Latvala proposed a strike-all to SB 1216 that now includes the NASL and a number of other entities. The strike-all was adopted in Senate Appropriations, so now both versions of the legislation include a provision about the NASL.
With soccer clubs in Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and the ‘burg, this is a good deal for the state.
Senator Latvala deserves a lot of credit for getting the pro-soccer legislation this far. Additionally, he’s assisting pro-soccer advocates with some issues with the House version of the legislation.
While the ball is not yet in the back of the net, it’s looking like soccer fans may score this legislative session — all due to Senator Latvala!