State representatives on Thursday tweaked a bill that would allow professional sports franchises to compete for $12 million in annual sales tax subsidies for facilities projects.
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, added language that would prohibit professional baseball teams from winning the money -- unless Major League Baseball changes its rules about Cuban baseball players.
Under the current MLB rules, players from Cuba must establish residency in another country in order to become free agents. Cuban players who come directly to the United States go into the amateur draft.
The proposal comes on the heels of recent media reports detailing outfielder Yasiel Puig's dangerous journey from Cuba to California. Puig, who now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers and was the runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year in 2013, was held hostage by smugglers in Mexico.
Gaetz said the current restrictions "drive exceptional Cuban athletes into the arms of human traffickers."
Said Diaz: "We're not going to give away our taxpayer dollars until this ill is corrected."
The new language would also require Major League Baseball to inform the state attorney general about any instances of potential smuggling.
Lawmakers will vote on the stadium funding bill (HB 7095) Friday.