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Marlins Ballpark plan clears another hurdle


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House maneuvers with an amendment to help team

By BRENT KALLESTAD

Associated Press Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A last-ditch maneuver engineered by the second most powerful lawmaker in the Florida House to win a $60 million subsidy for a baseball stadium in Miami survived a bruising floor debate Tuesday and headed to a final vote.

The baseball stadium measure was kept alive along with a $75 million proposal to help lure a NASCAR Hall of Fame to Daytona Beach, but the concept of using tax dollars to help lucrative sports franchises must still win muster in the upper chamber. Senate President Tom Lee opposes giving the public's cash to benefit wealthy professional sports owners.

The proposal for a new Marlins stadium, which was not heard in any House committee to examine its fiscal impact, came up through an amendment by speaker-designate Marco Rubio, R-Miami, and survived on a close voice vote after several unsuccessful rules challenges by Democrats.

The Marlins and NASCAR proposals are quite different: Central Florida lawmakers want a NASCAR license plate and say they could repay the $75 million in time from the proceeds; the Marlins would be the no-questions-asked beneficiary of $2 million annually from the state's coffers for 30 years, albeit the dollars would flow back to the Miami-Dade County and city governments who would own the ballpark and rent it back to the team for their 81 home games each year.

The amendments dramatically jacked up the state's financial exposure in a measure (HB 173) designed to provide up to $5 million for government-owned convention centers in Florida with more than 30,000 square feet.

"When is this going to stop?" asked state Rep. Susan Bucher, D-West Palm Beach.

She didn't have to wait long for an answer because Rep. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, was on the floor with another amendment that would include $500,000 for the New York Mets' spring training site at Port St. Lucie, which was also approved.

"This is bad tax policy, a bad idea," said state Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka. "It will continue to happen if we let this go through."

A certified public accountant who chairs the House Finance and Tax Committee, Brummer refused to take up the Marlins bill earlier.

"We must do what's right and oppose roping off taxpayer dollars to go to special projects," Brummer repeated Tuesday.

An amended version of the Marlins proposal in the Senate (SB 1306) made it through in the Commerce and Consumer Services Committee on a 3-2 vote Tuesday, but there are no more scheduled committee meetings as lawmakers approach their May 6 adjournment.

Rep. Anne Gannon, D-Delray Beach, suggested subsidizing ticket prices instead so more people could afford to attend games.

The NASCAR measure has some backing in the Senate with the language of intent to pay back the money it receives.

"I would hate like the dickens to see one of the other cities get this," said Rep. Pat Patterson, D-DeLand. "This is an opportunity that will go away."

Earlier this month, a Senate staff economist told lawmakers that new sports stadiums don't usually have the intended effect of spurring economic development.

Lee also said it might be a good year to pull the state out of the business of subsidizing pro sports franchises.

Brummer that central Florida redneck, he's held up this bill this whole time. He's got his own agenda for the state of Florida.

This is very big news. The bill should be brought before the house this week and should pass. All the pressure would be on the senate. If they pass it Gov. Bush could sign the bill this weekend, early next week.

Rep. Diaz de la Portilla from Miami is getting hammered in all the spanish radio shows for voting against the bill. The latin community down here is CRAZY to get this thing built. Especially the politicians, if they were to let this team leave the latin community would riot.

This is getting very exciting and positive. News was very bleak a week ago.

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Good they need and deserve this park they won 2 World Series in a dreadful Stadium for baseball, now they deervea downtown stadium made just for them.

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Sorry, "Marlinfan", but they are right to vote no. They may represent a group of people, who would rather have their tax money go elsewhere. If the local governemnt does not want to build it, then why should the whole state? It is not over. Look at what has happened to San diego, the mayor has quit over Petco, the chargers vote, and the fact that the city still built Petco as the pention fund was drained nearly dry and the city may for bankrupcy. And people think that public financing is a good thing? Those who tried to block Petco through the courts were eventually right. Now San Diego is an individual case, but even the new colts project is in serious jeopardy.

Visit www.fieldofschemes.com to fine out the real deal on sport facility financing/construction.

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House passes bill to help pay for Marlins stadium in Little Havana

By MARK HOLLIS

Tallahassee Bureau

Posted April 27 2005, 12:30 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE ? The Florida Marlins scored a dramatic political victory Wednesday as the Florida House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $60-million state tax subsidy to build a ballpark in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood.

The baseball stadium proposal cleared the state House on a 90-26 vote, tied to a funding package that would sprinkle millions of state sales tax dollars throughout the state for baseball spring training sites and other sports stadiums and facilities.

The House bill (HB 173) diverts $2 million a year for the Marlins and $2 million a year for four spring training sites, as well as $5 million a year to counties with convention centers. The measure also sets aside $2 million a year for the Orlando Magic and $1.2 million a year for a NASCAR museum in Daytona Beach, although that money would be repaid through the sale of a NASCAR auto license plate.

Among the baseball training sites that would benefit under the bills is Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, where the Mets hold spring practice games. Over 30 years, the bill would provide $15 million to the baseball spring training sites. And at Tradition Field, that money -- $500,000 a year ? would go to repay renovations already made to the park two years ago.

Sponsors of the stadium-funding package clapped hands and cheered when the House voted. But major hurdles remain.

The House bill is significantly different from a Senate package and lawmakers have just over a week to work out differences.

The stadium funding also faces sharp skepticism from Senate President Tom Lee. Earlier this month, a Senate staff economist told lawmakers that new sports stadiums don't usually have the intended effect of spurring economic development. And Lee has said this may not be the best year to increase state subsidies to sports franchises.

City of Miami and Miami-Dade County officials, who watched the House deliberations in the Capitol after spending days lobbying lawmakers to pass the bill, were ecstatic after the vote.

``It now goes to the Senate very strong,'' said Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. ``Ninety members in favor and very positive debate. It's not like we barely edged a victory.''

Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said the local lobbying efforts will now be thrust at the 40-member Senate.

``What we saw here today was bipartisan unity on economic development,'' said Sosa. ``The state is secure in its investment. We hope the Senate will show the same unity and same enthusiasm for economic development.''

Throughout the ongoing two-month legislative session, the Marlins funding package has faced an uncertain fate.

But Miami Republican Rep. Marco Rubio, the House's incoming speaker, maneuvered the bill around one of its biggest obstacles ? Rep Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, a House committee chairman who has blocked numerous bills this session. Rubio, however, tacked money for the Marlins and other sports stadiums onto an unrelated bill dealing with sales tax rebates for convention centers.

Critics attacked the maneuver, saying House leaders sidestepped budget committees where the issues should have drawn more debate and scrutiny.

Rep. Susan Bucher, D-West Palm Beach, was among critics who pointed to public-opinion polls that show more than 80 percent of people are against spending tax money on professional-sports arenas and a report by a Senate economist that showed the facilities provide little or no economic benefit to their regions.

Other critics, such as Brummer and Delray Beach Democrat Anne Gannon said the bill steals money from other state priorities, such as health care for the poor, public schools, and local road and water projects.

But supporters, such as Rep. Juan-Carlos Planas, R-Miami, said if not for the stadiums, the state wouldn't raise as much revenues as it now does for public priorities.

``This is where we get the money for the eyeglasses and the dentures for the poor, all the special projects we want,'' Planas said. ``It's by people coming here (to Florida and its entertainment facilities) and spending their money.''

Some lawmakers said they are opposed because they think Miami-Dade County has already enjoyed enough perks in the budget while other parts of the state have suffered from last year's hurricanes.

``I can't stand here and help build stadiums when I still have 30,000 families (in my community) who can't move into their homes (after Hurricane Ivan),'' said Rep. Holly Benson, R-Pensacola.

Mark Hollis can be reached at mhollis@sun-sentinel.com or 850-224-6214.

Vote from the Senate may come tomorrow. This has picked up steam FAST.

Apparently some of the lawmakers up north feel uncomfortable about a name change. The county manager said today that the deal won't be killed by Miami-Dade if the northern lawmakers request they stay the Florida Marlins. So a name change might not happen after all. Although I'd prefer to become the Miami Marlins.

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No. Not happening.

The Marlins have a better chance of selling out a home playoff game *cough*cold day in hell*cough* than getting a new ballpark built in Miami.

We have many many times. You must be talking about Atlanta.

Shows how much you know of the situation.

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Sorry, "Marlinfan", but they are right to vote no. They may represent a group of people, who would rather have their tax money go elsewhere. If the local governemnt does not want to build it, then why should the whole state? It is not over. Look at what has happened to San diego, the mayor has quit over Petco, the chargers vote, and the fact that the city still built Petco as the pention fund was drained nearly dry and the city may for bankrupcy. And people think that public financing is a good thing? Those who tried to block Petco through the courts were eventually right. Now San Diego is an individual case, but even the new colts project is in serious jeopardy.

Visit www.fieldofschemes.com to fine out the real deal on sport facility financing/construction.

Local government wants to build the park. The mayor of Miami, mayor of Miami-Dade and other local politicians are all lobbying in Talla. The city and county commission have already approved a preliminary draft of this deal.

But in this situation if the whole project went overbudget the city, county, and state don't have to pay a cent. The Marlins under the deal would have to pay everything cent that the project goes overbudget. The money the city has put into the project is coming from a hotel bed tax that has been around for years for this purpose. This money from the county was either going to be used for #1 A Marlins Ballpark or #2 An expansion to a convention center.

The reps have wanted to vote on this bill for months. But because of one power hungry northern Florida redneck the whole bill was being held up. He wasn't doing this because of the money, he was doing this for politics. He sure didn't have a problem with the central Florida teams when they wanted the 60M.

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