Member of Senate Committee Considering Legislation for Randy Boyd’s Taxpayer-Funded Baseball Stadium is Employee of Law Firm That Could Benefit From Bill’s Passage

Yarbro
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A member of the Senate State and Local Government Committee is an attorney with a law firm that could benefit from the passage of the legislation enabling Randy Boyd’s taxpayer-funded baseball stadium in Knoxville.

Democrat Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville sits on the Senate State and Local Government Committee, the first stop for SB 0783.

The bill would redistribute the state and local sales tax revenue collected within one-quarter mile of the center point of Boyd’s stadium to the newly-formed sports authority in order to pay off the taxpayer-funded debt for the stadium.

Normal partisan politics would call for a Democrat to oppose taxpayer funding that would benefit a multi-millionaire, hundreds of times over, who also happens to be a Republican, as evidenced by Boyd’s 2018 primary run for governor.

But Yarbro is also an attorney with Bass, Berry & Sims, a Tennessee-based law firm with more than 260 attorneys with dozens of service areas.

One of those service areas is public financing for government entities.

In fact, Bass, Berry & Sims promotes on their website, “Over the past three years, we have represented cities and counties across Tennessee on more than 200 general obligation bond transactions valued at a combined total of approximately $4.5 billion.”

That public financing includes, for example, such sizable projects as $225 million of bonds for construction of Nashville’s Major League Soccer stadium, an $8.5 million public bond offering for the Tri-Cities Airport Authority, $100 million of bonds for Montgomery County’s multi-purpose event center and a $24 million bond issue for the ballpark where the Memphis Redbirds play, with Bass, Berry & Sims representing the government entities as bond counsel.

Mark Mamantov is one of three Office Managing Partners at Bass, Berry & Sims who has worked on many of Tennessee’s largest bond financings, including most of the ones cited above.

Mamantov has already been involved in the creation and development of the Sports Authority of the County of Knox and the City of Knoxville.  In fact, the charter document names Mamantov as the initial registered agent of the Sports Authority.

The Sports Authority is considered to be the first step in getting Boyd’s minor league Smokies team back to Knoxville from Sevier County.

The second step is the creation of a special tax district, through a new state law, so that the state and local sales taxes generated within one-quarter mile can be redistributed to the Sports Authority in order to pay for the cost of the stadium.

The estimated costs to taxpayers for Boyd’s stadium is $65 million, plus a 20 percent contingency for a total of $78 million.  The figures, however, do not include the interest payments of $4 million annually for the bonds issued to fund the ballpark, which could very well be handled by Bass, Barry & Sims as bond counsel.

The two main sponsors of the special tax district legislation is Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) and Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville).

Co-sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) and House co-sponsors include Michelle Carringer (R-Knoxville), Eddie Mannis (R-Knoxville), Sam McKenzie (D-Knoxville), Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) and Dave Wright (R-Corryton, Part of Knox County).

Of the eight sponsors and co-sponsors, five have them received a combined total of more than $90,000 in campaign contributions from individuals who are connected to Boyd’s stadium, The Tennessee Star reported.

One of those campaign financiers was Mamantov, who contributed the following amounts to the bill sponsors and co-sponsors:

Massey – $1,600

Briggs – $1,100

Carringer – $500

Mannis – $1,300

McKenzie – $250

The connections between Bass, Berry & Sims and state legislators go further.

Tennessee law requires that as part of the registration process for lobbyists and their employers, a statement be filed that includes the extent of any direct business relationships between the lobbyist and any candidate for public office or any official in the legislative or executive branch.

The Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance (BECF) has a webpage that publishes the disclosures of lobbyist relationships with those officials.

Two lobbyists for Bass, Berry & Sims – Erica Vick and Jennie Corley – disclose their relationship with Yarbro in 2020 as a fellow associate at the law firm.

While disclosures for 2021 are not yet an available option to select on the BECF webpage, both Vick and Corley are listed in the 2021 Tennessee Lobbyists Association Membership Directory as lobbyists to the Tennessee General Assembly on behalf of their clients and various public policies.

The nine-member Senate State and Local Government Committee, which not only includes Yarbro but bill co-sponsor Briggs as the committee chair, is scheduled to take up SB 0783 on Tuesday, March 23.

Meanwhile, the corresponding House bill HB 1204 is bypassing any other committee review and is headed straight for the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday, March 24.

Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Thoughts to “Member of Senate Committee Considering Legislation for Randy Boyd’s Taxpayer-Funded Baseball Stadium is Employee of Law Firm That Could Benefit From Bill’s Passage”

  1. midnitelamp

    were not the rubes fleeced by bredeson and the oilers the last referendum passed for corporate welfare for a pro sport?

  2. Jim

    And don’t forget, that part of the “sales pitch” for public funding is that this stadium will be available for professional soccer. How come the proposed Knoxville stadium built for baseball will also work for soccer, when we were told and sold ($hundreds of millions) that the Titan stadium which was originally designed to accommodate both American football and soccer, CAN’T be used for soccer?

    Ya can’t have it both ways! And can someone please show me the difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to spending taxpayer money on frivolous stuff?

  3. No Taxpayer money, for welfare of Billionaire Team Owners and their stadiums!
    When you need a nee vehicle but the sales tax adds $7,500.00 or so the price and kills that idea, when you go to the grocery store, with $100.00 in your account, and have to put $10.00 of the groceries back to pay the sales tax it is time fora Tax Payers revolt!
    Remember when thy introduced the TEMPORARY one cent sales tax?
    Now it is averaging ten cents on the dollar with state and county and city combined. And ..the most of it goes to subsidize Millionaire and Billionaire Developers…and Billionaire Ball Team Owners Ball Stadiums that 99% of Tennesseans will never be able to attend or afford, to, and are the Millionaire Players going to take a knee and insult us and our Country too? Time to stop the subsidy/Corporate Welfare or Billionaires and Law Firms and others with our tax dollars.
    .

  4. Kalee

    Please write the legislators on the two committees considering this legislation today. The Senate committee meets tomorrow, Tues, and the House committee meets Wed. ASK THEM TO DROP THIS LEGISLATION UNTIL THERE IS AN ETHICS INVESTIGATION. Their email addresses are public record:
    Senate State and Local Government Committee:
    [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected],
    [email protected],
    HOUSE FINANCE WAYS & MEANS SUB-COMMITTEE
    [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

  5. Horatio Bunce

    How can the Tennessee Republican supermajority consider any use of taxpayer funds for large outdoor gathering arenas in their “new lockdown normal” with the raw milk not-zees at the Knox County Health Department running the government, deciding what public freedoms to associate or breathe freely without a do-nothing face diaper on? Will Randy’s publicly funded stadium have all the seats 6′ apart? How about bathroom stalls? No food or drink served? Will it ever be allowed to open to start killing grandma?

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