85th Texas Legislature: Senate Bill could keep Texas cities from hosting Super Bowl, F1 Racing

The passage of SB105 could keep Texas cities from hosting future Super Bowls.

There’s a Senate Bill in Texas that could keep the state uncompetitive in attracting Formula 1 Racing and Super Bowls in the future.

The Major Events Trust Fund, which helps pay for the cost these events, is filed for the chopping block.

State Senator Bob Hall (R – District 2) authored SB 105 for, as he told the far-right leaning Empower Texas, being “sick and tired of the government picking winners and losers in the marketplace.”

Basically, the METF works like this. Cities and municipalities work hard to lure large-scale games, championships and international conferences to their towns because there are potential money and exposure on the world stage to enjoy. And jobs. Don’t forget jobs.

Through a fund that’s supplied by tax dollars, Texas can decide to award grants from the METF (or any of its similar event trust funds) to help pay for some or all of that event. Really anything can be paid for by METF funds – some interesting past examples have been HD televisions and a celebrity bowling tournament – so long as the organizers of that event can prove hosting the event will generate greater than average revenue from things like hotel, rental, and beverage taxes.

Hall is a pretty much your standard Tea Party Republican – he’s got his own Bathroom Bill and everything – and his theory is that citizens’ tax dollars are being used to support well-connected, wealthy organizations.

“Government needs to focus on its basic responsibilities, not on taking millions in taxes from middle-class families and giving it straight to powerful, politically connected corporations,”  he said.

Is his well-crafted outrage justified? No… a 2015 audit determined that the comptroller’s office did a decent job of following the rules on whose events get what money.

But, does the economic impact of hosting previously funded events like the World Waterpark Association Annual Symposium and Tradeshow or the Professional Anglers Association Bass Pro Shops Tournament Series really generate growth for the city that hosts it?

The answer is, no one is 100 percent sure yet.

The same audit also determined it couldn’t tell if events produce as much extra tax revenue as estimated because it is “difficult to isolate the economic effect of a particular major event.” Because of this, Governor Gregg Abbott now runs the fund instead of the comptroller’s office.

It’s early, though. The bill was just filed late last year, and TSL isn’t yet certain how much support something pretty major like SB105 has. But chances are it won’t get far. Texas started setting up event trust funds in 1999 and has expanded their scope since.  Nonetheless, TSL is keeping an eye on it as the 85th legislative session continues on because for Texas sports fans the consequences could keep big events from coming to their towns.

A little Texas events trust fund legislative history

1999: The 76th Legislature establishes two funds — the “Olympic Games Trust Fund” and the “Pan-American Games Trust Fund” — to assist the state in its site selection bid for those games.
2003: The 78th Legislature amends the statute to establish a fund now called the “Major Events Trust Fund” that assists the state in bidding to host other large events, including the Superbowl and major sports league All-Star events.
2005: The 79th Legislature establishes trust funds for motorsports racing (such as the Houston Grand Prix) and “Special Events” (such as world-renowned horse shows).
2007: The 80th Legislature establishes a fund for assisting Texas with hosting smaller sporting events (the “Sporting Events Trust Fund”).
2009: The 81st Legislature removes the “sporting” requirement from the type of events that could qualify for the trust fund. The “Sporting Events Trust Fund” becomes the “Events Trust Fund.” The fund may provide financing for both sporting and non-sporting events (such as an international conference

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