TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The clock on the Sun Life Stadium bill in the Florida Legislature is deep in the fourth quarter and the Miami Dolphins have just 48 hours to get a vote out of the House, which has a major traffic jam of bills as of Wednesday.
Wednesday’s session in the House once again moved slowly as a robotic computer program read every word of any bill brought up for consideration. The full reading of the bills started after Democrats in the House invoked a procedural move to force the full reading of bills before passage.
Democrats invoked the parliamentary procedure to protest what they believe is the legislature’s inaction on implementing Medicaid expansion and other federal healthcare requirements.
“Republicans in Florida are getting ready to leave $51 billion on the table, leaving a million Floridians uncovered,” said U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But even her appearance during the session is doing little to help as Republicans appeared to snub her Wednesday.
“It’s okay. I’m a big girl,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Bills are passing, but the overall process is moving at a snail’s pace.
The Sun Life Stadium bill has gone through many transformations while making its way through the legislature. From the initial 26 amendments proposed, about one-third have stuck.
The Sun Life Stadium renovation bill that passed the Senate Monday may end up costing the team tens of millions of dollars in state funds if the renovation begins in 2013, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.
The Senate bill dropped a provision that would allow the Fins to apply for state stadium funds immediately. Senator Oscar Braynon confirmed the language to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald and said the team will not receive state dollars if work begins in 2013.
According to the Herald, state dollars would make up approximately 13 percent of the $350 million price tag for the construction and renovations to Sun Life Stadium. The Herald reported that if the state money is not available this year, team owner Stephen Ross would start the renovation anyway as long as Miami-Dade County voters approved the tourism tax increase.
The Dolphins and the NFL have brought out the big guns to the Legislature. In recent days, both Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have been in attendance during the Senate’s final vote on Monday and during House proceedings.
The Fins hope the Sun Life bill can make it to a vote on the house floor by Thursday, if the House speaker can move enough business to get the bill to the floor.
“This is kind of a dance between Democrat and Republican parties,” said Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami. “There is a lot of things in play right now that no one can really predict what’s going on.”
According to the Herald, the House will have to pass the bill by a 2/3 majority vote since the House Rules committee hasn’t considered the bill.
“At this point, the only way for that to happen is for the Chamber to waive the rules, which we have not done in the three years I’ve been here, to take up the bill and pass it as amended,” said Representative Carlos Trujillo.
The planned renovation is scheduled to take roughly 22 months to complete. By that schedule, there would still be time to finish the work in time for Super Bowl L (50). If construction were delayed to wait for state funding, it could force the team to give up on landing Super Bowl L.
The Dolphins, Miami-Dade County, and the legislature have been working on a condensed schedule in order to have a plan approved and ready when the NFL will award the 50th anniversary Super Bowl. South Florida is up against a brand-new billion dollar stadium in Santa Clara, California for Super Bowl L.
The complex dance between the Dolphins, the Legislature, Miami-Dade County voters require each step to be completed for the deal to finally be set. The Dolphins have already paid for the referendum vote and made concessions in the legislature to get the bill passed.
In addition, early and absentee voting started this week for Miami-Dade County voters to weigh in on the plan to use a tax increase for tourists on the mainland to help pay for the renovation.
But, it could all be for naught if the legislature doesn’t finish its work by the time the final gavel sounds on the 2013 legislative session in Tallahassee.
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