Hey, Miami-Dade voters: Looks like you'll have a chance after all to decide whether the Dolphins -- and their billionaire owner, Stephen Ross -- deserve tax dollars to help renovate Sun Life Stadium. With bills to approve a hike in bed taxes stalled in Tallahassee, the NFL flew out its big gun: Commissioner Roger Goodell. Whatever Goodell did -- gladhanding? Promising to get Tim Tebow out of football? Threatening everyone with photos of Terrell Suggs' gums? -- it worked.
The Senate passed the plan with just four nay votes last night; it now heads to the House, where Speaker Will Weatherford seems amenable to giving it a hearing on the floor.
If the House OKs the deal -- presumably after another round of Goodell's backroom magic -- the plan to give the Dolphins nearly $400 million in bed taxes and sales-tax subsidies would go to a public vote in Miami on May 14.
The bills looked to be faltering in Tallahassee before yesterday's about-face in the Senate. The Miami-Dade GOP came out against the plan, and the bills had stalled in both legislative bodies with a looming deadline. The session ends on Friday, so the package has to pass the House and Senate by then.
Enter Goodell, who flew up to Tally with Ross yesterday and met privately with top lawmakers. (Note to self: Check luxury boxes at the next Florida-based Super Bowl for top lawmakers.)
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By the end of the day, the Senate passed the deal -- which includes $13 million annually in tax breaks for pro sports franchises -- 35-4. Two Miami lawmakers were in the tiny minority: Rene Garcia and Anitere Flores, both Republicans.
Weatherford, the House speaker, has previously said he didn't like the plan and has helped keep it off the floor for a vote. But on Monday, he praised the latest version for creating a process to approve sports subsidies, the AP reports -- a hint that the bill will certainly get a vote before the Friday deadline.
Polls actually opened yesterday in Miami for the May 14 election, but so far turnout has been "abysmal to slim" the Herald reports -- presumably because most voters wanted to wait to see what Tally did before casting their ballots.