Lawmakers in both chambers scored an easy layup Monday night, approving a heavily lobbied bill repealing the so-called “jock tax” on NHL and NBA athletes who play here.
Democrats in the House argued the legislation would target Memphis and Nashville where the state’s effected sports teams reside. The tax for hockey players would disappear immediately once the governor signs the bill and linger for two years for basketball players. The tax does not apply to NFL players.
"We're giving tax breaks to millionaires. It's no wonder we're in the situation we're in," said Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, voicing opposition to the bill in light of the state's budget woes.
Professional hockey and basketball athletes who play in Tennessee currently are on the hook for $2,500 per game and up to $7,500 a year. The money is deposited in municipal funds but is ultimately funneled back to team owners to bring events to their facilities. It does not go to the state.
"What we're doing is taking a little bit of money away from zillionaires that don't need it and letting athletes keep it," said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.
The legislation is the result of a year and a half of negotiation, officials said. A similar bill failed to make headway last year, although it passed the House on a partisan 66-25 vote and a 30-2 vote in the Senate Monday night.
For lawmakers opposed to the bill, it came down to a repeal that meddles with local control while leaving elected officials out of the negotiations. Metro officials said they have no position on the bill although House Minority Leader Mike Turner, a Nashville Democrat, said the Metro Council has asked lawmakers to oppose the bill.
The bill's next stop is the governor's office.
The Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business has endorsed Metro Councilman Robert Duvall in the 59th House District race.
Duvall, a Republican who represents District 33 on the council, is facing Democrat Sherry Jones, who has held the state House seat since 1995.
“Robert Duvall is the advocate small business owners in House District 59 sorely need because he understands bigger government dampens free enterprise and job creation,” Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee, said in a release.
NFIB/Tennessee SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members, made the endorsement.
In addition, NFIB has endorsed Republican Steve Dickerson in the race for the 20th Senate District. Dickerson will face Democrat Phillip L. North.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.