Last night's crushing defeat of the Miami Dolphins stadium effort was a matter of some vindication for House Speaker Will Weatherford, who has taken a measure of heat from the club and a few fans for refusing to resurrect a bill that would have fully authorized a referendum.
As a result, we only have partial results. But it's a big part: nearly 61,000 counted ballots and a 43-57 percent rejection.
So the Dolphins looked headed for defeat had the Legislature voted on the bill that stalled in the House.
"As I said all along, public financing of the SunLife Stadium had significant challenges. The referendum result was just one more example," Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican said. "The Dolphins are a great Florida team, and I hope the leadership will focus their energy on constructive and collaborative solutions."
Keep hoping, Mr. Speaker.
Dolphins owner and billionaire Steve Ross threw a tantrum when he didn't get his way, hurled a veiled threat at Weatherford and others and paid no attention to his own complicity in his own failures.
Indeed, this deal had problems from the start. An early poll showed how troubled the initial stadium deal was with Miami-Dade voters. The Dolphins ignored the results and attacked the pollster. Ross said he didn't want a public vote. There's a reason for that.
Since the May 3 session ended, the Dolphins have shown anything but a desire to be constructive, at least regarding public dialogue about what happened to its bill in the Florida House. And the portion of its fans or the general public who are utterly clueless about how the Legislature works are all stirred up by the Dolphins-spread myth that Weatherford killed the bill.
That's an exaggeration. The Dolphins bill stalled in the House.
First: it never was put on the agenda in the House budget committee by Chairman Seth McKeel. The budget committee was its last committee stop. Technically, under legislative process, that's a major killer.
Second: a similar measure that passed the Senate cleared that chamber too late in the session to make it easy to take up in the last week in the House without a two-thirds vote. I said as much in this column and repeatedly indicated in blog posts and on Twitter that the Dolphins' had problems. I was ignored. Had the bill arrived in time (on Monday before about 5 p.m. in this case) the House Rules Committee could have put it on the agenda to be voted on. It didn't. The rules committee, chaired by Rep. Rob Schenck could have made a special effort to agenda the bill "if received" by the Senate. But it didn't. So blame Schenck, too, as well as Dolphins-opposing members of his committee like future speakers Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva.
Third: Oliva is a good example of the real nexus of opposition: Miami-Dade's Republican delegation in the House. A majority opposed the Dolphins bill. Why? Perhaps because, under the structure of representative government, they held the office most-close to constituents in the Legislature and realized that the people of Miami-Dade didn't want this (cf. the results last night). And they were stirring up opposition among other Republicans of the Florida House, where the GOP has a majority. The ring leaders: Carlos Trujillo, Michael Bileca and Jose Javier Rodriguez (who's a Democrat).
Now there's a good chance that, had the bill hit the House floor, it would have passed by a simple majority vote of the 120 members if nearly all the Democrats stuck together and about 20 Republicans had gone their way.
But to get the bill there, Weatherford would have had to go out of his way to resurrect the bill. That's not so much as killing as refusing to render aid. And it happens with hundreds of bills every lawmaking session. It's the process. It's can be ugly sausage-making. It sucks for advocates. But it is what it is. What made the Dolphins so special is that a rich guy lost and then attacked a fellow Republican.
So let's review: McKeel, Schenck, Corcoran, Oliva, Bileca and Rodriguez all played a role. They have a four major things in common:
1) They're members of the House.
2) They opposed the Dolphins deal and worked to kill it
3) None is named Will Weatherford.
4) All can say: I told ya so