The bill to use taxpayer money for renovations to Sun Life Stadium — owned by billionaire Stephen Ross’s Miami Dolphins — has died in the Florida House. Voting for the measure in a special election was already underway in Miami-Dade county, but that referendum will now be pulled:
Up against the clock and with a future Super Bowl on the line, the Miami Dolphins suffered an epic loss Friday in the state Capitol. The look of defeat on the face of Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, as he hugged House Speaker Will Weatherford, spoke volumes as the team’s stadium effort failed.
Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, had been the Dolphins’ chief ally in the Florida House. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, turned out to be the team’s nemesis.
“OK, members,” Weatherford said at 6:57 p.m. Friday. “We’re done.”
Lawmakers ended the 60-day legislative session without approving a deal to provide taxpayer support for a $350 million upgrade of Sun Life Stadium. With last-minute amendments and late-game Hail Marys, the Dolphins held out until the final hour.
But a deal was not to be had, as Weatherford rejected the overtures of several lawmakers who pleaded with him to hear the bill. The House instead killed the stadium effort without a vote.
Republican Will Weatherford: hero.
But he’ll need conservative support in the coming weeks as Stephen Ross is not happy about losing his taxpayer bucks. Here’s his statement (my emphasis on the last paragraph — which reads like a threat to Weatherford):
Tonight, Speaker Weatherford did far more than just deny the people of Miami Dade the right to vote on an issue critical to the future of our local economy. The Speaker singlehandedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami Dade,and that is just wrong.
I am deeply disappointed by the Speaker’s decision. He gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote, where I know, and he knows, we had the votes to win by a margin as large as we did in the Senate. It’s hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so. Time will tell if that is the case, but I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come.
I want to thank Mayor Gimenez for his leadership. He was a tough negotiator whose persistence led to an agreement that offered taxpayers the strongest protections of any agreement of this kind in the country. I also want to thank our bill sponsorsand supporters in Tallahassee, especially Senator OscarBraynon, Representative Erik Fresen and Representative Eddy Gonzalez; our County Commission sponsors, Commissioners Jordan, Diaz and Barreiro, as well as all of our supporters on the County Commission; HT Smith and Jorge Arrizurietta, the Co-Chairs of the Miami First Campaign; The University of Miami; The Orange Bowl Committee; The Greater Miami Hotel Association; the many volunteers who lent their support to our campaign, and the members of the Dolphins organization and our campaign team who worked so hard in the last several weeks. I believe without a doubt that the voters would have supported this project if the votes had been counted on May 14th.
In the weeks ahead, I will do all I can to convince my fellow owners to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami Dade. The Bid Committee has done a tremendous job to give us a great shot, and my only hope is that it is enough to overcome the terrible message Speaker Weatherford has sent to the NFL tonight. In addition, I will continue to do all I can to build a winning team for the people of Miami Dade.
In the future, I will look to play an important role in fixing the dysfunction in Tallahassee and will continue to work to create good jobs in Miami Dade and throughout South Florida.
The “dysfunction in Tallahassee?” I see Tallahassee — in this instance — working just fine.
And hopefully this signals the end to taxpayer subsidies to billionaires and their toys.