Florida senate committee passes Sun Life bill

(COURTESY: Miami Dolphins)

MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins' bid to get Sun Life stadium upgrades paid for, in part, by public tax dollars scored a favorable vote in the third of four scheduled state senate committees Thursday. 

But unlike the first two senate committee votes, the appropriations committee was not unanimous.

State Senator Tom Lee, a Republican from Brandon, was the lone no vote, unconvinced the public investment had a calculable return on investment.

Miami Dolphin chief executive officer Mike Dee was one of the public speakers as he has been at every committee meeting so far.

"If we have a stadium that competes, we'll continue to get Super Bowls," he told the committee.

Senate Bill 306 provides an annual $3 million state sales tax rebate to the Miami Dolphins for 30 years to fund upgrades at Sun Life Stadium, contingent upon a favorable vote by Miami-Dade voters to also raise the local bed tax levy by one cent.

The team and owner Stephen Ross have invested in a roster of lobbyists and public relations firms to sell the plan to the public. Recently, they have touted endorsements from hotels, chambers of commerce and organizations like the Aventura Marketing Council.

"Years ago, we extended this letter of support for economic development and tourism generation and we'd be glad to do the same thing," said Elaine Adler on the council's long-time support of the team. 

Ben Launerts, managing partner of a valet parking business, thinks the public investment will pay off.

"If the public benefits, should not the public pay as well?" he asked.

A growing chorus of opposition doesn't think so.

On Wednesday, Miami Beach's City Commission officially opposed the funding plan. Cutler Bay's Town Council did the same, and its mayor is planning a public campaign against using state sales tax revenue to upgrade a stadium whose owner made the recent Forbes list of billionaires.

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