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Front Page » Top Stories » Legislative Full Court Press As Sports Bills Compete Over Taxes

Legislative Full Court Press As Sports Bills Compete Over Taxes

Written by on March 3, 2011

By Zachary S. Fagenson
South Florida sports teams will cast a watchful eye on Tallahassee as both houses of the legislature meet in full and joint sessions next week to decide on a handful of bills that could profoundly impact their futures and finances.

The hunt for a House sponsor to combat the bill filed by Rep. Erik Fresen that would tie Miami Beach Convention Center improvements to a Sun Life Stadium upgrade recently ended.

State Rep. Joseph Gibbons, a Broward County Democrat, last week filed a counterpart bill to allow a bid for county commissions to be able to increase tourist taxes to fund only convention facility improvements to move forward.

A parallel senate bill, sponsored by Bradenton Republican Sen. Mike Bennett, was filed in early February and backed by the Miami Beach City Commission.

Mr. Fresen’s bill, if approved, would give county commissions the option to increase their tourist taxes and in Miami-Dade expand locales where the tax is collected to help fund the about $225 million revamp Sun Life Stadium and the $640 million overhaul of the Miami Beach Convention Center. The bill would also allow county commissions to permit payments on projects across county lines in hopes of getting money from Broward County, which benefits from Super Bowls at Sun Life Stadium.

Palm Beach County Republican Sen. Joe Negron sponsored an identical bill.

Both plans are now on an equal playing field, and it’ll come down to whether the Dolphins ownership or the tourism industry has better lobbyists and the policymakers’ ears.

Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s January trustee luncheon, said a main reason for improving the stadium is to remain competitive with other, more-modern facilities around the US in bidding for future Super Bowls.

With the legislative session approaching, some business and civic leaders are pushing hard to pull the Dolphins out of the tourist tax-increase equation and others. The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, according to President Jason Loeb, is backing Sen. Bennett’s plan while the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, according to Chairman Maria Alonso, supports the revamps of Sun Life Stadium and the Miami Beach Convention Center but won’t take a position on how to fund them.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bennett also authored a bill that could bar sports teams from receiving public money for any purpose. It would also require those teams with facilities on public land to begin paying property taxes.

Last week state Rep. Fred Costello, an Ormond Beach Republican, filed identical legislation in the House.

If passed, the legislation would force the Miami Dolphins to pay taxes on their stadium, which the Miami-Dade property appraiser in 2010 valued at $122.5 million, including the about $17 million county-owned land it sits on.

At the same time, the Miami Heat would have to pay tax on its waterfront arena that the appraiser in 2010 valued at $138.4 million sitting on a $26.4 million piece of county-owned land.

The Florida Marlins’ stadium rising in Little Havana would be taxable, too. The appraiser in 2010 valued the largest portion of old Orange Bowl site at $3.1 million. That could multiply many times once the finished stadium, officially owned by the county but controlled by the Marlins, opens.

Homestead sports complex lease likely this month. Read the story in e-Miami Today.