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House Speaker, Dep't of Economic Opportunity set to clash over stadium incentives

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s criticism of the Department of Economic Opportunity is getting louder.

In a pre-session interview with FloridaPolitics.com, Crisafulli said he would be willing to change the state law to make clear that the competitive applications must be ranked by the Department of Economic Opportunity, and that the Department cannot simply review the applications for completeness.

“Do you add the word “must?” I don’t know. I want to know. I don’t know how you strengthen that (law) more. I am interested to know that,” Crisafulli said.

Crisafulli made the remarks on the eve of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission meeting, where 14 legislators will decide how to spend $7 million in economic incentives. The four sports franchises submitted $9 million in grant requests, or $2 million more than what is available.

Daytona International Speedway, the City of Orlando (Orlando City Soccer), the City of Jacksonville (Jacksonville Jaguars) and South Florida Stadium, LLC (Miami Dolphins) applied for the incentives and submitted their applications to the DEO. The department reviewed the applications for completeness and forwarded them to the Legislature.

Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner requested economist Amy Baker to review the competitive applications and rank them based on return on investment. Baker’s review placed Orlando and Jacksonville at the top of the list, followed by the City of Miami and the Speedway.

Joie Chitwood III — President of Daytona International Speedway — challenged the ranking.

Meanwhile, with just hours before the LBC meeting, speculation is mounting that none of the applications will be approved. In order to get the nod a majority of HouseLBC members and a majority of Senate LBC memberss must approve the request. Four of the seven House members who serve on the LBC– Republicans Matt Hudson, Richard Corcoran, Larry Metz and Clay Ingram — opposed the sports incentives last year. Crisafulli supported the law saying it was important to establish the “process.”

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