Make NASCAR the official sport of Florida? State senator wants to

Florida has an official state beverage (orange juice), bird (mockingbird), pie (key lime) and reptile (alligator).

Isn't it time we had an official state sport?

State Sen. Evelyn Lynn thinks so. She has filed a bill for the 2012 legislative session making auto racing the official sport of Florida.

The Ormond Beach Republican's Senate district includes much of Volusia County, home to Daytona International Speedway.

Lynn makes a good case, noting that racing has created lots of jobs and Daytona Beach is considered the birthplace of NASCAR, dating to those beach races in the '50s featuring Hudsons, Chryslers and Mercurys.

"It seemed very appropriate to have that as our state sport," Lynn said.

Many lawmakers will have other ideas: baseball, perhaps, or golf, or college football.

And, this being the Legislature, someone is bound to suggest dwarf-tossing as the official state sport.

Last spring, two lawmakers tried to get the barking tree frog designated as the state amphibian. It didn't pass.

Lynn's bill (SB 266) is one of many filed for the 2012 session that will generate debate on both sides, even though they won't make major changes in our daily lives.

For example, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, wants to require police departments to offer lifetime veterinary care to retired police dogs (SB 358).

Fasano said an animal rights group suggested the idea, and he filed it last year, but it didn't pass. While everybody loves police dogs, that care comes with a cost, to be passed on to local taxpayers.

"It could be seen as a mandate down to counties and cities, unless money follows," Fasano said.

Speaking of which, with the state in dire need of revenue, Democratic Rep. Irv Slosberg of Boca Raton and Republican Sen. Steve Wise of Jacksonville came up with the idea of allowing private companies to advertise on state nature trails — with the money to be used to maintain the property for public benefit.

"I'm not talking about big billboards," Wise said. "I'm talking, 'the next 5 miles of this trail is sponsored by XYZ Corp.' They would pay for that."

State trails are open to the public. Private property is not.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, wants to allow people to spray paint purple stripes on trees on their land as a warning to would-be trespassers, who have been known to tear down or shoot "No Trespassing" signs.

Thrasher said he filed the bill (SB 132) at the request of sheriffs, and that purple is a conspicuous color that other states use.

When a Senate committee took up the bill recently, a lobbyist for trial lawyers voiced opposition.

"The concern is, it could turn innocent hikers and hunters into criminal trespassers," said Paul Jess of the Florida Justice Association, the trial bar's lobbying arm.

Jess also suggested orange paint, not purple, be used to mark private property as a warning to trespassers.

"International orange is a color that indicates a safety issue," Jess said. "A mere paint stripe doesn't put people on notice unless they have a prior awareness of what it means."

And you thought Florida was a "red" state.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Make NASCAR the official sport of Florida? State senator wants to 10/31/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 1:53am]

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