GOV. SCOTT SIGNS STADIUM FUNDING INTO LAW
By Jim Turner, The Florida News Service // June 21, 2014
FLORIDA Senate backed measure 35-3
ABOVE VIDEO: Orlando City Stadium is a proposed soccer-specific stadium and will be the home venue for the Orlando City Soccer Club, who will enter Major League Soccer as an expansion franchise in 2015. It will be located in Downtown Orlando and is expected to cost $110 million.
New Law Could Speed Millions of Dollars To Daytona International Speedway, Orlando Soccer Club
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – A new ranking system will be set up to fund professional sports stadiums in Florida out of a designated pool of money under a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Rick Scott.
The new law (HB 7095), which could speed millions of dollars to Daytona International Speedway and to expansion soccer clubs in Miami and Orlando, also adds a provision that shuts Major League Baseball out of the process until its draft requirements are revamped for players defecting from Cuba.
In a release Friday, Scott called the measure a job creator that will increase tourism and “allow franchises to expand in Florida.”
The signing was expected, as Scott’s office had announced in May that the governor planned to approve the legislation.
Lawmakers crafted the legislation to reduce lobbying for stadium subsidies by setting up a business incentive program. Opponents had countered that the process will only make it easier for communities and teams to get state money.
“It is a subsidy, and that is what it is,” Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, argued before the bill was approved 89-27 on May 2. ” … Absolutely, it’s a process that allows the tax break Olympics to begin and kick off in 2015.”
The Senate backed the measure 35-3.
In a sign of how he may have handled the legislation, former Gov. Charlie Crist, the front-runner to be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, tweeted on Friday, “I’m a big sports fan, but Scott giving $ to build stadiums before restoring $$ to education just makes no sense!”
The bill requires the Department of Economic Opportunity to evaluate the economic viability of and rank funding proposals before lawmakers are asked to approve sales-tax dollars for multimillion-dollar construction projects and improvements.
The signing quickly drew praise from Daytona International Speedway, which has been seeking money the past two sessions for its ongoing, $400 million “Daytona Rising” project that supporters have called an economic driver.
“Governor Rick Scott understands that a fair process, based on proven economic growth numbers, is the right way for the state to partner on job creation projects,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said in a release.
The bill allows projects that cost more than $200 million to apply for up to $3 million a year in funding for 30 years.
Projects worth between $100 million and $200 million could apply for up to $2 million a year, and those between $30 million and $100 million would be eligible for up to $1 million a year.
Money for the stadium projects would come from an annual pool of $13 million, with $6 million set aside for the Legislative Budget Commission to potentially allocate later this year. That commission is made up of House and Senate members.
The $6 million could help the speedway and Major League Soccer expansion-franchise stadium plans in Orlando and Miami, as each could receive up to $2 million a year for 30 years for stadium work.
The process was drawn up after controversial efforts last year by the Miami Dolphins to land tax money for upgrades at Sun Life Stadium.
The proposal allows money to be available annually for the major sports leagues, along with Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League, NASCAR, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, hosts of the Breeders’ Cup horse races and minor-league baseball facilities.
Currently, only Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association are eligible for sales-tax dollars for stadium work.
A part of the bill that received a lot of media attention was tacked on at the last minute to require Major League Baseball to change how Cuban players are treated if teams want to participate in the funding pool.
Major League Baseball allows foreign nationals from any nation other than Canada to negotiate as free agents with any club. However, a U.S. embargo prohibits Cuban players from negotiating as free agents while still in Cuba, and requires that those who defect to America enter the annual amateur draft.
An MLB spokesman said in May that dialogue had started with the players union on the issue. But no changes to the draft rules have been announced.