The Florida state house has approved its bill setting up an official process for sports teams to demand tax kickbacks, as first proposed last month. The bill, approved by a 93-16 vote on Friday, would set up a pool of an additional $12 million a year in sales tax breaks (on top of the $2 million a year apiece currently given to the states’ MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL teams); any projects seeking to get a slice would have to go through a ranking process conducted by the state Department of Economic Opportunity, and then be subjected to a legislative vote.
The one new twist is an amendment that would deny sales-tax funding to the state’s MLB teams — including for spring training facilities — unless baseball revamps its policy on Cuban defectors to allow them to become free agents rather than having to enter the major-league draft. (Right now players like Yasiel Puig choose to establish residency first in a draft-free nation like Mexico in order to score more lucrative contracts, leading to scary stories that become Brett Ratner biopics.) In response, MLB issues a noncommittal statement that it would meet with the players’ union “to determine whether changes can be made to our international signing rules to reduce or eliminate the reliance of Cuban players on criminal organizations when leaving Cuba.”
In any event, this bill is likely to look very different after it gets through the state senate, whose leader have already said they want to eliminate that part where legislators vote on which projects to approve, otherwise known as “the part that actually gives the bill any teeth at all.” Sen. Jack Latvala said he supported the Cuban provision — because this is Florida, so of course he did — but predicted, “This bill will bounce. We’re not gonna do it exactly the way the House does it on the first pass.”