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Tax cut for Marlins stadium passes, despite constitutional problems

Ignoring warning signs by their own staff that a tax cut for the Miami Marlins stadium parking garage is probably unconstitutional, the House Committee on Economic Affairs passed the proposal, unanimously and without debate.

staff analysis landed yesterday that cast serious doubt on the constitutionality of the plan –- which would cover up for a poorly inked deal with the Marlins that left the city of Miami on the hook for $1.2 million in property taxes.

Rather than changing the language to address the constitutional problems, the bill sponsor, Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, filed an amendment making the proposal retroactive to the 2012 tax bill, in effect doubling down on the constitutionally-questionable measure.

The Marlins parking garage section of the bill, filed by Rep. Jose Diaz, R-Miami on behalf of Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, would exempt the city of Miami from paying property taxes.

It’s the Legislature’s latest move that critics say bucks the state’s Constitution.

The Legislature has shown its willingness to push constitutionally questionable laws, and the state is currently swimming in litigation for issues ranging from redistricting to drug testing to pensions for state workers. On Tuesday, a House committee voted in favor of a law that would allow the state to conduct random drug tests on state workers, despite several court rulings that have deemed that practice unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, in the House Judiciary Committee lawmakers voted in favor of a bill that would allow students to make “inspirational messages” in school, that could include religious words or prayers.

In both the drug-testing bill and the school prayer bill, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said passing these laws would invite litigation over constitutionality.

The ACLU of Florida could end up being the source of that litigation, as the organization has sued the state in the past.

In Miami, a hearing is set for this afternoon over a lawsuit challenging Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to randomly test state workers for drug use.

The ACLU has spoken out against random drug tests of state workers, stating that they violate the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which deals with unreasonable search and seizure.

 The drug-testing bill has one more stop before reaching a full vote and the “inspirational messages” bill heads next to the House Floor for a full vote.

The Marlins stadium tax exemption proposal heads next to the House Floor.