In 2013, the City of Orlando thought it was close to $30 million in state funding for a new soccer stadium; the funding never came.
Heading into 2014 with Florida expecting a budget surplus, Orlando is once again eyeing money from the state for the new stadium, however, the state once again doesn’t seem interested in cash for sports stadiums.
The stadium issue is just one of many that, with only weeks until the 2014 Florida legislative session, seem to be stuck in limbo.
When asked about money for new stadiums, including Daytona International Speedway, Gov. Rick Scott told Eyewitness News, “If we can get a return, I’m very interested in doing things, so that’s how I look at it.”
The governor’s comments echo the tone set by Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who has indicated the legislature is not interested in paying for new projects.
Also not on the table for 2014: comprehensive water legislation and destination casinos.
The Florida Senate spent almost $400,000 on a two-part casino study that ultimately determined casinos would have a negligible impact on the state’s economy.
But the casino issue is more complex than simple dollars and cents.
Major pro-casino backers, including Donald Trump and Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, have pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into re-election PACs for Gov. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi. However, the state has a standing contract with the Seminole Tribe concerning blackjack and other table gambling. That contract would need to be addressed prior to any legislation emerging from Tallahassee.
“I don’t think the legislature or the governor want to engage in that kind of decision-making that might affect campaign contributions and alienate an important constituency,” said WFTV political analyst Dr. Rick Foglesong.
This week, the Florida Senate Committee on Gaming introduced its first bills on the issue.
The committee’s bills call for a limited expansion of gaming, specifically in southern Florida, and creating a new gaming commission.
The committee is not scheduled to take up this new legislation until March 3.
The legislation, while still in committee, already faces its own opposition in the former of major anti-gaming interests including Disney, which has issued several statements against the expansion of gambling in Florida.
“I expect this Republican-controlled legislature to try and protect Rick Scott and not put any hot potatoes on his desk,” says Dr. Foglesong.
The state was also expected to discuss comprehensive water legislation to deal with issues ranging from availability of fresh water to restoration of the Everglades to the problems with the Indian River Lagoon. But House leaders have given indications that water legislation may have to wait until 2015.