SBD/March 15, 2013/Facilities

Dolphins Receive Widespread Support For Stadium Bill, Except In Miami-Dade County

Dolphins execs have massaged their bill to make it more palatable to Fla. lawmakers
The Dolphins’ push for a bill to "help pay for stadium renovations sailed through another committee of the Florida Legislature on Thursday," according to Toluse Olorunnipa of the MIAMI HERALD. While legislators who "live hundreds of miles from the Miami Gardens stadium have agreed to send state tax dollars to the Dolphins, Miami-Dade County’s delegation is lukewarm to the idea." The result is that the only organized opposition is "coming from the county that is requesting a special tax carve-out." An informal poll of 25 Miami-Dade County lawmakers "shows that the delegation is split over the Dolphins’ stadium, reflecting the political potency of the issue of sending taxpayer dollars to sports teams in South Florida." Uproar over the taxpayer-financed Marlins Park "led to the recall" of former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez in '11. The Dolphins have "massaged their bill to make it more palatable to lawmakers across the state, agreeing to allow local taxpayers to approve a new hotel tax to help finance the stadium makeover." The team also agreed to "continue to play in Florida for decades to come, a concession requested by Gov. Rick Scott." Those concessions -- and a "well-connected lobbying team -- have helped the Dolphins push through a politically thorny proposal." The team also has "picked up support from local business groups" like the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association. The proposal has "cleared three of its four committees in the Senate with only one senator voting against it." The bill "passed its first committee in the House by a comfortable margin, and has two more committee stops before it can reach the floor." Though the Dolphins’ proposal has "gained steam in the Senate ... it faces longer odds in the House" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/15).

A TAXING DECISION: In Miami, Douglas Hanks in a front-page piece notes the vote by the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association gives the Dolphins "a key endorsement as the team prepares for a referendum needed to enact the financing plan." The hotel association "represents businesses that would see their customers pay slightly higher taxes if the Dolphins get the plan approved." The Dolphins’ plan would "increase taxes on mainland hotels" to 7% from 6% (MIAMI HERALD, 3/15). Hanks notes among the standard demands from the NFL for communities hosting a Super Bowl is that league employees "be exempt from all local taxes." That would "free NFL employees from paying" an additional 1% hotel tax. Communities "don’t always agree to the exemption." An NFL spokesperson on Thursday said that South Florida "rejected the NFL’s request when [the] Super Bowl last came" to the area in '10. But Santa Clara, Calif., last week announced it "would waive hotel taxes for NFL executives." That "raises the stakes as the Dolphins lobbying team races to obtain state and county approval of the tax-funded renovation by May 22, when NFL owners will pick a winner" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/15).
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