The Miami Dolphins today officially launch their political campaign to get May 14 voter approval for tax-subsidized stadium renovations.
But there’s a good chance the effort could all be for naught.
Top Republican sources in the GOP Legislature, which needs to sign off on the plan, say it’s anywhere from “struggling” to “limping” to “dead.” Bill backers dispute this.
But there's another indication it’s in trouble: the chief opponent to the stadium plan, South Florida car deal Norm Braman, said he he’s focusing his efforts on killing the plan in the Legislature instead of kickstarting a voter-persuasion campaign to rival the Dolphins.
"Why spend all those resources and time when it might be a waste?" Braman asked rhetorically.
Braman has spoken personally with lawmakers and has hired a lobbyist, Patrick Bell.
“I’m optimistic it won't pass,” Braman said. “I have great respect for the leadership in Tallahassee, far more respect than I have for the leaders in Miami-Dade.”
Hialeah Republican Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, a bill sponsor, said he's feeling confident about the chances for the legislation. He said an overwhelming majority of representatives who sit on the House Appropriations committee, the legislation's next stop, back the bill.
"I have 22 votes in favor out of 26 in the appropriations committee!! And have plenty of time!!" Gonzalez said in a text message.But Braman said Republican lawmakers and Democrats alike probably won’t sign on to the “corporate welfare for a billionaire,” a reference to Steven Ross, the owner of the Dolphins. Braman, too, is a billionaire (albeit, Ross is likely wealthier) and Ross’s right hand man, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, has attacked Braman for having taken some tax incentives for economic and infrastructure development.
“Norman Braman is frankly irrelevant to this conversation,” Dee said March 27.
Braman isn’t irrelevant. Still, he acknowledges that the Dolphins have hired loads of top-notch lobbying talent, namely Ron Book, and that until session’s end May 3, there are no guarantees.
“I don’t know all the whys and the wherefores of Tallahassee and the power of Ron Book,” Braman said. “But this is a bad deal.”
Dee also got this wrong Twitter yesterday: “It's official: the voters of Miami-Dade will have the final say on this unprecedented agreement to modernize the stadium.”
Dee was caught up in the excitement of the Miami-Dade Commission’s vote to put the measure on the ballot. But voters will only “have the final say” on the deal if the Legislature approves it. And top sources say that’s not happening.
Since it was introduced in the House and Senate, the legislation has taken different paths in each chamber – a problem because both bodies need to pass identical legislation before Gov. Rick Scott signs it. And in the last House committee, it fell a few votes shy of being killed. The Miami-Dade Republican and Democratic parties have been critical of the plan and many members of the Miami-Dade delegation oppose it, including future House Speaker Jose Oliva.
“It’s dead,” one top Republican source said.
“It’s limping,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami.