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Dolphins bill appears stalled in Fla. House; Still moving in Senate

The Miami Dolphins’ push for new legislation to approve a tax-supported stadium upgrade appears to be is stalling in the Florida House, where the powerful budget chairman has no plans to hear the bill this week. 

Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, made it clear that the bill would not be heard this week, and there are currently no committee meetings scheduled for next week. 

“On Friday, I’m hearing the [healthcare] bill,” he said. “Don’t plan to hear the Dolphins bill.”

His comments came on Wednesday after the Appropriations Committee met. The Dolphins bill, which was last heard two weeks ago, was not on Wednesday’s agenda. 

Though session in winding down, the bill is certainly not dead.

The Senate plans to hear a different version of the bill on Thursday, and could be the team’s saving grace. If the Senate approves the bill and sends it to the House, it could pass without clearing all of its assigned committees in the House.

McKeel did not say specifically who was lobbying him on the bill or why he wasn’t putting the bill up for a vote.

“I get lobbied about a lot of things,” he said.

Both the Dolphins’ lobbyist Ron Book and billionaire opponent Norman Braman have lobbied lawmakers on the bill. Conservative group Americans for Prosperity has also come out strongly against all bills to provide taxpayer dollars to sports teams.

The Dolphins are hoping Miami-Dade County will raise the mainland hotel tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, to provide funding for a stadium renovation that could cost more than $350 million. The team is also requesting up to $90 million in sales tax rebates from the state of Florida.

After reaching a deal with the Dolphins, Miami-Dade County is planning to hold a referendum on May 14 to give voters the final say on the deal. If the deal does not pass in Tallahassee, the referendum will be a moot point.