Early voting for Dolphins bed tax begins as legislative clock winds down

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Voters in Miami-Dade County start heading to the polls Monday for a hotel bed tax issue tied to the Miami Dolphins that legislators have less than a week to keep alive.

With the early voting period getting underway, it remains to be seen if the so called Dolphins bill (SB 306) will finally be heard on the Senate floor. The bill stalled last week and is currently cued to come to the floor Monday, with a vote possible as early as Tuesday. House Speaker Will Weatherford, said his chamber is waiting to see what the Senate does. The House proposal to award the Dolphins $3 million a year in sales tax rebates for 30 years for the Sun Life Stadium upgrades was halted after failing to get a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.

Separate efforts to extend $2 million a year for improvements to EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Daytona International Speedway, and to Orange County, which is planning to help build a soccer stadium, also failed to get through the House committee process.

Meanwhile, the Senate proposal has morphed into a catchall that would require the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to prepare an annual list of teams, spring training sites and professional sports seeking assistance from the state. That list would be ranked and then sent to the Legislature for a final vote on possible funding.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, the sponsor of the bill, told the Miami Herald on Friday that negotiations were ongoing between the two chambers. “No, we’re not panicking yet,” Braynon told the Herald. “Five days is a long time.”

Weatherford called the ranking proposal intriguing but had yet to see the measure. “We’ll see what happens and see what they send us,” Weatherford said on Friday.

Without legislative and gubernatorial approval of the sales tax money for the Dolphins, the referendum to increase the bed tax by 1 cent becomes a non-issue. The Dolphins have agreed to pay $4.8 million for the May 14 special election as part of the pitch to voters. Team management has also agreed to remain “long-term” in the county, repay the county at least $112 million after 30 years, and to pay penalties for failing to bring in premier football and soccer events.

Via the News Service of Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.