Twenty years ago, the state government passed a law that sounded good on a very simple, surface level: all sports facilities that receive public funding must be used as homeless shelters when not in use. Of course, since the law went into effect not a single arena or stadium in the state has been used as a homeless shelter. Now, two Republican lawmakers have filed a bill that would require stadiums and arenas to return state money for not complying with the obscure law.
"These organizations have failed to follow the law for over 20 years," said Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami), in a statement. "This is the simply the State of Florida holding them accountable."
Artiles is sponsoring the bill in the House, while Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) has introduced the bill in the Senate.
Sun Life Stadium, home to the Miami Dolphins and, until recently, the Florida Marlins, has received more than $37 million from the State since 1994, more than any other facility. Almost $31 million has been given to Broward's Bank Atlantic Center, home of the Florida Panthers, since construction begin in 1996. American Airlines Arena has collected $27.5 million since 1998.
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"We have spent over $300 million supporting teams that can afford to pay a guy $7, 8, 10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet. I think they can pay for their own stadium," Bennett tells The Miami Herald. "I can not believe that we're going to cut money out of Medicaid and take it away from the homeless and take it away from the poor and impoverished, and we're continuing to support people who are billionaires."
For a moment of pure hypocritical bliss, just take the last part of Bennett's quote out of context and imagine he was saying it while talking about other Republican pet peeves, like say the Bush tax cuts and Rick Scott's plan to eliminate corporate income tax or something.
The law seemed like it was designed to be ignored in the first place, and really its no surprise it has been for so long. Perhaps Bennett and Artiles would be better off enacting legislation that would limit government funding of sports arenas in the future rather than trying to collect money given out years ago.