The day after Miami-Dade commissioners OK'ed a referendum to help the Miami Dolphins fund a $350 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium, Mayor Carlos Gimenez traveled to Tallahassee.
The county-funded trip had been scheduled before the deal Gimenez negotiated was approved, with the mayor planning to promote Miami-Dade's broader legislative agenda, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. But after commissioners voted for the Dolphins referendum, Gimenez's one-day trip last Thursday turned largely into a "fact-giving" mission to brief legislators on the proposal's fine print, spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said.
Trutie said the mayor was not lobbying for votes: "He truly went up there to give the facts."
UPDATE: Gimenez later reiterated that he does not consider his trip "lobbying" because he said he didn't ask lawmakers for their vote.
"I'm here to tell you what the deal is," the mayor said he told legislators. "I'm not here to change your mind."
Gimenez argued that when he describes the deal as among the best negotiated with sports teams -- which he has noted repeatedly in interviews -- he is providing "facts," not advocacy.
"I do support the deal. I was the guy who negotiated the deal," the mayor said. "I didn't go to Tallahassee to lobby for it."
The referendum is conditioned on legislative approval of Dolphins-backed bills allowing the county to increase the mainland Miami-Dade hotel-tax rate to 7 percent from 6 percent. The Dolphins have also asked for an additional $3 million annual sales-tax subsidy.
Though the legislation moved quickly through committees in the state Capitol, it has slowed down more recently. And the Florida House and Senate versions still differ substantially, a potential problem less than three weeks before the annual lawmaking session ends May 3. The final bills would need to match.
The mayor's schedule shows Gimenez, a Republican in a nonpartisan post, met with House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and with Adam Hollingsworth, Republican Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff.
Gimenez also met with the bills' sponsors, Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, and Sen. Oscar Braynon II, D-Miami Gardens. And he met with a trio of vocal House opponents from Miami, Democrat José Javier Rodríguez and Republicans Michael Bileca and Carlos Trujillo, and with other local lawmakers: Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Hialeah Republicans Sen. René García and Rep. José Oliva.
Oliva voted against the bill in committee, and Flores has said she opposes the legislation.