The state legislature on Monday abolished the special tax professional hockey and basketball players pay when they play in Tennessee.
For NHL players, the so-called jock tax would end once it is signed by Gov. Bill Haslam and becomes law. For NBA players, it will continue for two more years. The House vote was 66-25 and the Senate vote was 30-2.
The bill's lead sponsor, Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, said his goal was to end a constitutionally suspect law. Alexander said the jock tax likely would fail to pass legal challenges because professional hockey and basketball players have been subject to the tax since 2009, but professional football players are exempt.
Under the current law, players pay $2,500 per game when they play in Tennessee up to $7,500. The revenue has ultimately been forwarded to the owners of the Nashville Predators and Memphis Grizzlies for the purpose of bringing more events to their arenas.
In recent weeks, a new group called Music City Sports and Entertainment Group emerged seeking to use the tax collected in Nashville, about $2.3 million annually, to promote a college football game pitting an SEC team against a major team from another conference. Last week, members of the Metro Council sent a letter to lawmakers opposing the bill. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean took no position, his spokeswoman said last week.
"You're making a millionaire in Canada or Russia happy today and you're hurting Tennesseans and you're hurting tourism in Tennessee," Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, said to his colleagues during a lengthy floor debate about the bill.
A similar bill was introduced last year, but it stalled, which brought stakeholders to the table for discussions.
"What we're doing is taking a little bit of money from zillionaires that don't need it and letting athletes keep it," Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said.
In the most recent update to the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players union, the two sides agreed team owners would pay the tax for their players. That means the Predators owners pay the maximum $7,500 for their own players but have continued to benefit from the taxes paid by visiting players.