A proposal to rank the requests for sales tax dollars to help build or improve professional sports stadiums across Florida is headed to the Senate floor, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.
However, with a little more than two weeks left in the regular session, senators say concerns about the proposal (SB 306) should focus on the House, a proposal to rank requests for the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Daytona International Speedway, Major League Baseball spring training facilities and a potential Major League Soccer stadium have yet to be considered.
“Go talk to the House,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner. “We are getting to where we are comfortable. We’ve set up a policy. There is really nothing else to talk to us about.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday backed the measure, which was initially crafted to provide $3 million a year in sales tax rebates for three decades to help the Miami Dolphins pay for $350 million in upgrades to Sun Life Stadium.
The Dolphins funding request – deeply linked with numerous promises from the team regarding long-term repayment of tax dollars, and a voter referendum in Miami-Dade County to increase the local hotel bed tax – remains in the bill.
But the measure was added to earlier this month by Gardiner, and now also requires the state Department of Economic Opportunity to rank the economic impact of the teams and stadiums targeted for the government assistance along with the potential economic impact of the stadium work.
Legislators would have the option each session to fund the top ranked proposals from a pool of about $13 million a year.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said Wednesday the Senate measure most likely would have to be reviewed by a committee because the proposal is to be funded by repealing a decades-old tax incentive that was crafted to help draw international and out-of-state bankers to Florida.
“There is a good chance it would be heard,” Weatherford said.
Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, however, didn’t give any indication on Wednesday as to whether his committee would have time to review the House bills for the Dolphins funding (HB 165) or any other stadium proposal.
Meanwhile, House bills on the various stadium proposals before the Legislature – $2 million a year for both EverBank Field in Jacksonville and Daytona International Speedway (HB 1049); $2 million a year for construction of a stadium in Central Florida in efforts to land a Major League Soccer franchise (HB 219); and $5 million a year for Major League Baseball spring training upgrades (HB 5601) – continue in the committee process.
Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, the sponsor of the Senate proposal, said Thursday his House counterparts “need to wrap their arms around what we’ve done.”