In an effort by Florida House leaders to limit public assistance to private companies, HB 77 was passed 82-33 in a vote Thursday. The proposed bill disallows sports franchises from building or renovating stadiums on publicly owned land.
Though similar bills have been proposed in the Senate (SB 122, SB 236), none have been heard in committee. House bill sponsor Bryan Avila told News4JAX, "It's fine here, but the Senate … a lot of things are not moving over there, so we'll see how everything shakes out.”
Avila spoke in support of the bill on Thursday night in front of the House, saying, "A sports franchise, or a team, is a business. You will be hard-pressed to find many cases where the local government has provided publicly owned land to other businesses.”
Representative Wengay Newton objected to the bill on the grounds that, when combined with HB 7005, which proposes the elimination of economic development incentives, it “handcuffs the entire state,” and leaves no clear pathway to economic growth.
"If you take the land away, which is probably all some of these local governments have … you can forget about growing the state, growing the tax base, creating jobs,” he said.
Meanwhile, representative Kathleen Peters objected to the proposal for its potential to disintegrate deals that are already in the works. Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards has made public his plans for an $80 million renovation of Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, converting the baseball field into a Major League Soccer facility.
Peters asked, "Why are we shutting down public-private partnerships? Why should this gentleman not have the ability to invest $80 million, no taxpayers' money whatsoever, $80 million to keep this historic integrity and make it a viable stadium, and we then get to benefit from the economic stimulation that comes from that?”
The bill is the result of growing opposition to government funding for stadiums following the 2009 Miami-Dade County initiative to borrow $400 million in bonds for construction on Marlins Stadium, which is now projected to cost more than $2.4 billion.