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Early voting for Dolphins stadium referendum begins Monday amid Tallahassee uncertainty


Early voting begins Monday in a Miami-Dade election so unusual that the whole thing could be called off by the end of the week.

The Florida Legislature has until the annual lawmaking session ends Friday to approve legislation supporting the Miami Dolphins’ push for a subsidized renovation to Sun Life Stadium. Otherwise, the May 14 referendum asking voters to approve the project will be canceled. The results of the ballots cast up to that point would be kept secret.

There is plenty of opposition — including from both local Republican and Democratic parties — to increasing the mainland Miami-Dade hotel-tax rate to 7 percent from 6 percent to pay the Dolphins up to $289 million over 30 years for the renovation. But no one has financed a full-fledged campaign against the plan so far.

“I don’t think there’s any sense in spending the money I don’t have for something that may not materialize,” said Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall, who has traveled to Tallahassee to speak against the legislation.

Miami auto magnate Norman Braman, another opponent, has also said he is focusing his efforts lobbying state lawmakers instead of launching a campaign.

The Miami-Dade Republican Party, whose members opposed the deal last month, has not taken further action. Their Democratic counterparts, who are also against the deal, and neutral civic groups have limited themselves to hosting community forums.

As a result, the Dolphins have had phone lines, mailboxes and radio and television airwaves to themselves. The stadium’s political action committee, Friends of Miami First, has raised $1 million since April 1, according to its first campaign finance report filed Friday. All contributions came from the Dolphins and South Florida Stadium LLC, team owner Stephen Ross’ company that owns the Sun Life.

The campaign spent about $347,000 in that period, mostly on advertising and phones to reach voters.

More here.