Sun Life Stadium bill dies in Florida legislature

Fla. Legislature ends session without passing bill to help Miami Dolphins upgrade stadium

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A bill that would help the Miami Dolphins with funds to renovate Sun Life Stadium has died in the Florida House.

The Florida Legislature is ending its annual session on Friday without passing anything that would assist the Dolphins or any other professional sports teams.

The Florida Senate passed legislation that would have created a process where pro teams would compete for $13 million a year in state incentives. Other professional sports organizations seeking money included Daytona International Speedway and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The bill would also would have let the Dolphins tap into local taxes to help pay for renovations to Sun Life Stadium. Miami-Dade voters are scheduled to vote May 14 on a referendum to help the team.

But the referendum will be cancelled with the defeat of the bill.

Miami-Dade Special Election, early voting cancelled

The Miami-Dade County Special Election that was scheduled for May 14 has been cancelled. As of Saturday, May 4, county officials said early voting is no longer available and there will be no Election Day voting for this election.

Voters in the cities of North Miami and Sweetwater are reminded that they may continue to visit the following early voting sites to vote in their municipal elections, which will continue as planned:

  • North Miami Public Library at 835 NE 132 Street
  • Elections Department Main Office at 2700 NW 87 Avenue

These voters may also vote at their assigned precinct on Election Day, May 14, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"The Elections Department is taking all possible measures to minimize the inconvenience to Miami-Dade voters, including placing signage at Early Voting sites and placing notices in local newspapers," said Penelope Townsley, Supervisor of Elections. "As we conclude this election, the department will continue to focus on the successful conduct of our municipal elections."

Responses to outcome of Miami Dolphins bill

Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross issued the issued the following statement regarding the outcome of the Dolphins bill:

"Tonight, Speaker Weatherford did far more than just deny the people of Miami Dade the right to vote on an issue critical to the future of our local economy. The Speaker single-handedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade and that is just wrong.

I am deeply disappointed by the Speaker's decision. He gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote, where I know, and he knows, we had the votes to win by a margin as large as we did in the Senate. It's hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so. Time will tell if that is the case, but I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come.

I want to thank Mayor Gimenez for his leadership. He was a tough negotiator whose persistence led to an agreement that offered taxpayers the strongest protections of any agreement of this kind in the country. I also want to thank our bill sponsors and supporters in Tallahassee, especially Senator Oscar Braynon, Representative Erik Fresen and Representative Eddy Gonzalez; our County Commission sponsors, Commissioners Jordan, Diaz and Barreiro, as well as all of our supporters on the County Commission; HT Smith and Jorge Arrizurietta, the Co-Chairs of the Miami First Campaign; The University of Miami; The Orange Bowl Committee; The Greater Miami Hotel Association; the many volunteers who lent their support to our campaign, and the members of the Dolphins organization and our campaign team who worked so hard in the last several weeks. I believe without a doubt that the voters would have supported this project if given a chance to vote.

In the weeks ahead, I will do all I can to convince my fellow owners to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami Dade. The Bid Committee has done a tremendous job to give us a great shot, and my only hope is that it is enough to overcome the terrible message Speaker Weatherford has sent to the NFL tonight. In addition, I will continue to do all I can to build a winning team for the people of Miami Dade.

In the future, I will look to play an important role in fixing the dysfunction in Tallahassee and will continue to work to create good jobs in Miami Dade and throughout South Florida."

Mike Dee, CEO of Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium, tweeted out to his followers on Friday:

"Thanks to all who worked so hard to keep #miamifirst. Our efforts were cut short before voters could decide but the politics in Tally do not take away from the experience of meeting so many great members of our community who care deeply about the future of Miami."

Rodney Barreto, Chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee, issued the following statement:

"Although the Florida House has let the people of Miami down by not allowing a public vote on the stadium referendum, I know that Steve Ross and the Miami Dolphins will put their best foot forward to support the Super Bowl Host Committee in bringing the 50th Anniversary game back to Miami.

I know the plan we have put forth thus far is extraordinary in its creativity and was well received by the NFL in our recent meetings. Unfortunately, there are many factors that weigh into the Super Bowl award decision, not the least of which is the quality of the stadium.

By failing to allow the stadium referendum in Miami Dade to go forward, the House Leadership has made our efforts to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami and South Florida much more difficult.

As Commissioner Goodell said recently, not allowing the people of Miami Dade to decide their own fate on this matter sends the wrong message to the NFL owners at the worst possible moment.

San Diego turned its back on the Super Bowl and hasn't hosted one since. I only hope the events in the Florida House today have not sentenced Florida to a similar fate."

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez has announced the end of the special election and issued the following statement:

"The State Legislature did not take action on the bill to provide an additional 1% mainland tourist tax for the Dolphins' stadium renovations. As a result, and in accordance with the resolution calling the special election, I have instructed our Elections Department to cancel the special election effective immediately.

The two scheduled municipal elections will proceed according to plan. It is important to point out that the special election did not cost tax payers any money, as the Dolphins paid the County $4.7 million to cover election expenses – in fact, we estimate that there will be over $1 million left over that can be used to meet other County needs.

I would like to thank those voters who took advantage of early voting to express their opinion on the stadium issue.  My priority from the beginning of this process has been to give our voters the final say."

Miami First Co-Chairs H.T. Smith and Jorge Arrizurieta released the following statement in response to the stadium bill:

"By leaving Tallahassee without letting the people of Miami-Dade vote on the modernization of Sun Life Stadium, the Florida House clearly showed our community that they would rather play politics than do the right thing.

While the Tallahassee politicians found time to raise the contribution limits for their fundraising, they said they couldn't find time to let the people of Miami-Dade make their voices heard.

While they pushed their political agenda, the House leaders refused to support the effort that would create over 4,000 jobs and provide a much-needed boost to our local economy.

The House put at risk the future of Super Bowls and other major events in Miami, which are so critical to our tourism economy. It's a sad day when Tallahassee gives San Francisco and Houston a victory at the expense of our community.

This inaction by the Florida House of Representatives is frankly irresponsible and regretful. The most basic responsibility and right a citizen has is the ability to vote. All we asked for was the opportunity to vote to not be denied. Unfortunately, the House chose to deny Miami-Dade residents the right to have the final say on this effort.

From the small business owners who depend on major events to grow their companies, to the unemployed construction workers who came to our Opportunity Fairs, as well as the members of clergy who wanted to do what is right for their community, and all of our supporters across Miami-Dade, we would like to thank them for their support."

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.