After agreeing to legislative leaders’ requests to analyze and rank four applicants seeking sports incentives from the state, the Office of Economic and Demographic Research puts the applications from the City of Orlando and the City of Jacksonville at the top of the list, according to a documents first obtained by FloridaPolitics.com
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said late last month that the Legislature expected the Department of Economic Opportunity to review and rank the four applicants who are vying for $7 million in competitive grants. But the DEO argued that the new law passed by the Legislature doesn’t require the agency to actually evaluate the first batch of applications now pending.
“For whatever reason DEO believes they are not under an obligation to provide that information to us,” Crisafulli said in a statement. “It would be a great disservice to ask members to vote on these projects without an objective ranking.”
So in stepped in the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, which used the DEO’s Sports Development Program Application Evaluation and Ranking Criteria to rank the facilities.
After the numbers were crunched, the City of Oflando’s request placed first, followed by the City of Jacksonville’s, then South Florida Stadium, LLC, and finally, Daytona International Speedway.
The state set aside $7 million for the sports incentives to be approved by the Legislative Budget Commission.
Sen. Jack Latvala, one of the sponsors of the bill, said he agrees that the state wasn’t supposed to rank the first batch of applications. But he said that’s only because legislators assumed the $7 million they set aside would cover everybody that wanted help.
“We thought that was enough money,” Latvala said.
For the past two decades, Florida taxpayers have paid tens of millions to turn the state into a sports mecca. The money has paid for repairs, renovations and construction of stadiums and arenas that are home to professional football, hockey, baseball and basketball teams. The state also has shelled out money to spruce up ballparks used by Major League Baseball teams for spring training.
But an effort to aid the Miami Dolphins in 2013 went down to defeat in the waning moments of the legislative session as some legislators, especially those from South Florida, questioned the validity of aiding the team owner.
Lawmakers returned last year and promised they were creating a new process intended to protect taxpayers so that heavily-lobbied projects weren’t the only ones getting help. Gov. Rick Scott said he was signing the stadium funding legislation into law because it would guarantee the state was getting a return on its investment.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.