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Pro Sports Teams Could Be On The Hook For The Homeless

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(Source: CBS4)

(Source: CBS4)

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The Miami Dolphins, the Marlins, the Jacksonville Jaguars and other professional sports teams across the state would have to return millions in tax money under a proposed measure approved by a Senate committee on Monday unless they make provisions to shelter the homeless.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton and sponsor of the bill, said sports team have been ignoring a 24-year-old law that requires stadiums to be used as homeless shelters.

He wants franchises to return the $166,000 a month they receive in state tax revenue unless they comply with a 1988 law which says “any professional sports facility constructed with financial assistance from the State of Florida shall be designated as a shelter site for the homeless in accordance with the criteria of locally existing homeless shelter programs, except when the facility is otherwise contractually obligated for a specific event or activity.”

An amendment adopted during the meeting would also require sports franchises that black out local games to provide free tickets to needy kids.

“We have spent over $300 million supporting teams than can afford to pay a guy $7, $8, $10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet,” Bennett said. “I think that they can pay for their own stadium.”

Among the biggest beneficiaries of state tax funds are the Miami Dolphins/Florida Marlins ($37 million) and the City of Jacksonville ($35 million.)

The bill is the latest in an ongoing spat between Bennett and professional baseball and football franchises, which Bennett claims can afford to pay their own way, but have balked. The bill passed unanimously Monday in the Senate Community Affairs Committee, which Bennett chairs.

“I can’t believe we are going to cut Medicaid and take money away from the homeless, the poor and the impoverished and continue to support people who are billionaires and own stadiums,” Bennett said.

The bill is a long way from home, however. It has three more scheduled committee stops before reaching the floor.

The bill, SB 816, passed unanimously from the Senate Community Affairs Committee, which Bennett chairs.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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