Professional sports stadium projects, if they want to use approved state funds, will need to go through a new grading process in the bill now headed to Gov. Rick Scott, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.
Gov. Scott spokesman John Tupps said in an email that the governor “looks forward to signing this legislation.”
Although the bill will potentially reduce lobbying of lawmakers for funds, HB 7095 could also speed $2 million a year for Daytona International Speedway upgrades and to new stadiums for soccer teams in Miami and Orlando. Major League Baseball could be shut out unless they redraft requirements for players from Cuba.
On the last day of the session, the House voted 89-27 approving Senate changes to the stadium measure. If passed, it requires the Department of Economic Opportunity to evaluate economic feasibility, and rank proposals prior to approving sales-tax dollars for multimillion-dollar improvements and construction projects.
“This chamber runs better when there is a process that is not controlled and dictated by the quality or the power of the lobbyist hired to push the stadium subsidy and when it has to go through a budgeting process,” Rep. Jamie Grant told Turner.
Grant was critical of Senate proposals in the bill.
The measure came about in response to Controversial efforts last year by the Miami Dolphins to land taxpayer money for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium.
Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez believes the process will make it easier for communities and teams who want sports stadiums to get state support.
“It is a subsidy, and that is what it is, this is a process, absolutely, it’s a process that allows the tax break Olympics to begin and kick off in 2015,” Rodriguez told the News Service.
The Senate approved the modified proposal in a 35-3 vote on Thursday.
Scott has not specified if he will sign the measure.
Under the proposal, money could be available annually for major and minor sports leagues, including NASCAR, Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Breeders’ Cup horse races.
Currently, sales-tax dollars for stadiums are only available for Major League Baseball, the National Football League the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association.
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said the proposal has already been effective about the requirement that Major League Baseball revamp its stance on the treatment of Cuban players if MLB teams want to participate in the funding process.
“Major League Baseball and the players union are already having discussions on how they will correct that problem,” he added.
With the exception of Canadians, all foreign nationals negotiate as free agents with any Major League Baseball club, with the exception of Cubans. The U.S. embargo prevents Cuban players from negotiating as free agents while residents of Cuba, and can only enter the annual amateur draft after defecting to America.
For projects costing more than $200 million, teams can apply for up to $3 million a year in subsidies for 30 years. Projects costing between $100 million and $200 million could get up to $2 million a year, and $1 million a year for those between $30 million and $100 million.
The state would create an annual pool of up to $13 million for stadium projects, including $6 million set aside for possible allocation by the Legislative Budget Commission later this year. House and Senate members comprise the Commission.
The $6 million could be used to help Daytona International Speedway upgrades and build Major League Soccer expansion-franchise stadiums in both Orlando and Miami, as each could receive up to $2 million a year, for 30 years, for construction.
Rep. Carlos Trujillo calls the change in funding amounts a “giveaway,” but Rep. Joe Gibbons considers it more like an “incentive program.”
“You make an investment, you get a return,” Gibbons told the News Service. “Our return is better stadiums, more revenue for the state, and the opportunity to get major sporting events that we will miss unless we continue to invest in this kind of business.”