Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rays Stadium as Tallahassee Bargaining Chip?

Last Friday, I reported powerful State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Seminole) was getting involved in the Rays' stadium campaign, with undisclosed meetings set up for this coming week.
Latvala has shown a willingness to put regional priorities ahead of parochial battles...and state dollars might be the only way Hillsborough could ever afford to build a stadium for the Rays.  But all things considered, Latvala would probably prefer to see a new Rays stadium in Pinellas.

He wouldn't provide much information about his discussions moving forward, but the state might be able to contribute money directly toward stadium construction (as it has for numerous other pro and college stadiums). It also might be able to orchestrate a more complex maneuver:

Latvala is close to the family that owns Derby Lane, which contributed $50,000 to his PAC in 2014, and he's worked over the years to try and prop up the seemingly-doomed kennel-racing side of Florida's gambling industry.  Could there be pari-mutuel concessions so a potential "Derby Lane Card Room" wouldn't need its race track any more and could then just donate 100 of its 130 acres to a baseball team looking for land?  Pure speculation.

But it wouldn't be an enormous stretch given Latvala's record of also receiving contributions from numerous pro teams (incl. $20,000 from the Rays) and helping to bolster the state's spending for spring training facilities as well as its spending on year-round sports facilities a year later.

Latvala will be the Senate Appropriations Chair next year, and if he chooses to spend his political capital on a stadium effort, he could potentially ram a Rays subsidy through just as former Senate Appropriations Chair J.D. Alexander strong-armed the legislature into creating the unpopular Florida Polytechnic University in 2012.

But opposite Latvala on the subsidy issue is incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O' Lakes), one of Tallahassee's fiercest critics of stadium subsidies. He's even gone so far to suggest the state should have a constitutional amendment prohibiting subsidies for pro sports teams.

So like all issues in Tallahassee, it will be a slow-played battle of wits and wills.  That could mean the Rays become a bargaining chip in one of the many Latvala vs. Corcoran battles on-tap for the next two years.
You can never predict how those turn out....but a little bit of lobbying and good ole-fashioned check-writing to political committees never hurts!

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1 comment:

  1. Jack Latvala said that Republican delegates were not getting back to their hotels until 3am. What is the issue - Mons Venus does not close until 6am?