Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Lawmakers pave way for tax breaks for pro sports

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — David Beckham's star power may have swayed a few lawmakers to help the former soccer player build his dream stadium in Miami.

With the clock running out on the legislative session Friday, the Legislature approved a bill that would allow professional sports franchises to compete for sales tax subsidies. The proposal passed with a provision that would benefit three construction projects, including Beckham's proposed Miami soccer stadium.

The bill has another fan: Gov. Rick Scott.

"This economic development bill creates a process that measures return on investment to help protect Florida's taxpayers," spokesman John Tupps said. "Gov. Scott looks forward to signing this legislation."

It was a relief to the retired soccer superstar, who traveled to Tallahassee to push the measure.

"We appreciate the work done by our government officials and their recognition of the enormous popularity of soccer," he said in a statement. "Today is not only good for Orlando and Miami, it's great for all of Florida."

Lawmakers spent the final day of the session last year debating whether to provide state funding for renovations to the Miami Dolphins' SunLife Stadium. (They declined.)

"Last year, the stadiums were a contentious issue," said Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City. "They were not going to go away."

So this year, Patronis and others insisted on creating a process for doling out facilities dollars.

The bill that won approval from the House and Senate (HB 7095) establishes an expedited process for three projects: soccer stadiums proposed for Miami and Orlando, and renovations to Daytona International Speedway.

The three could share in $7 million in tax breaks next year. A legislative budget panel would approve the state funding.

Beginning in 2015-16, a total of $13 million would be available to professional football, hockey, basketball and soccer teams, as well as NASCAR events and professional rodeos.

Baseball teams could also compete, but only if Major League Baseball eliminates its requirement that Cuban baseball players establish residency in another country before becoming free agents. Florida lawmakers say the practice has driven numerous Cuban athletes into the hands of human traffickers.

Each team could receive as much as $2 million in annual subsidies for up to 30 years.

The franchises would need to apply for the money. The Department of Economic Opportunity would rank the proposals, but the Legislature would make the final call.

Teams would be forced to return the money if they generated less sales tax revenue than anticipated or left the state.

Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, blasted the plan as "corporate welfare for billionaires."

Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, was particularly bothered by the provision for new projects, saying it was added "because (lawmakers) already have intentions for spending that money."

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected]

Comments
Rays INF Matt Duffy has to say big goodbye to 27-pound cat Skeeter

Rays INF Matt Duffy has to say big goodbye to 27-pound cat Skeeter

When the Rays acquired INF Matt Duffy from the Giants during the 2016 season, we also heard about the giant and somewhat famous cat he had, an up-to-27-pounder named Skeeter.Duffy announced over the weekend on Instagram that the family had to have Sk...
Published: 11/21/17
Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing."There’s always some...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
UPDATE: RHP Brent Honeywell among 7 added to Rays 40-man roster

UPDATE: RHP Brent Honeywell among 7 added to Rays 40-man roster

UPDATE, 8:11: RHP Jose Mujica was an additional addition to the roster, beyond the six previously reported. Mujica, 21, was 14-8, 3.04 ERA in 27 starts between Class-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery.So among those left unprotected and potentially ...
Published: 11/20/17
Former Devil Ray Aubrey Huff among newcomers to Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Former Devil Ray Aubrey Huff among newcomers to Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Aubrey Huff isn't going to make the Baseball Hall of Fame.But at least the former Devil Rays standout has the satisfaction of making the cut to get onto the ballot, one of 19 first-timers up for election this year.Other newcomers with Rays ties are O...
Published: 11/20/17
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Published: 11/18/17
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17
UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE, 5:01: Cobb did not accept the offer by the deadline, as expected.DEVELOPING: Sometime before today's 5 p.m. deadline, the Rays will get official word that their $17.4-million slight gamble on Alex Cobb paid off.The Rays made the free-agent ri...
Published: 11/16/17