MIAMI (CBS4) – The speaker of Florida’s House gaveled the regular legislative session to a close amid cheers Friday night, but there was no joy among executives of the Miami Dolphins.
Speaker Will Weatherford, a Pasco County Republican, refused to allow the chamber to vote on a plan to permit tourist taxes to fund a makeover of Sun Life Stadium.
Weatherford’s action brought an immediate halt to early and absentee voting on the issue by Miami Dade residents.
“I just think we need to talk about it and evaluate it more, and there’s always next year,” Weatherford said in explaining his decision.
Next year, however, would appear to have about a snowball’s chance in July on the 50 yard line at Sun Life Stadium. Weatherford will still be the Speaker of the House, and the Dolphins owner would appear to have made a permanent enemy of him.
Owner Stephen Ross issued a statement saying of Weatherford, in part, “He put politics before the people. He gave me his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the house for a vote. I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come.”
In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Jim Defede Sunday, the Dolphins CEO echoed the owners opinions.
“This was about one guy. This was a one guy roadblock,” said Mike Dee.
Weatherford has denied making any promises to the Dolphins regarding the bill’s consideration.
Dee said that there will be no renovation of Sun Life Stadium at the team’s expense, and future Super Bowls and jobs are at jeopardy. He would not rule out the possibility that the team could be sold and moved out of town.
“I wouldn’t want to prognosticate what the future holds,” Dee said. “But it’s clearly bleak.”
Meeting with reporters Monday, Dee did not back away from any of his comments in the CBS for interview.
He repeated his claim that the Dolphins buyer, Ross, did not know just how badly the stadium needed improvement when he bought it and the team for more than $1 billion.
“You don’t really know what the house is until you’ve lived in it,” he said.
The team’s hopes for taxpayer funding for a stadium overhaul were apparently dashed by a schism among South Florida Republican legislators.
“We did everything we could. We worked very, very hard,” said Rep. Eddie Gonzalez, a Republican from Hialeah.
Gonzalez told CBS4’s Gary Nelson Monday that he can appreciate the bitterness Stephen Ross is feeling.
“In the heat of the moment, somebody who just invested $10 or $12 million should be disappointed,” Gonzalez said.
Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Republican from Miami, opposed the stadium plan.
“It was a bad deal for taxpayers,” Trujillo said Monday.
Trujillo said the Dolphins asked for too much, out of the blue.
“I think part of it is because of the speed with which they tried to pass this by the Florida legislature, the speed with which they tried to impose this kind of election on the taxpayers of Dade County,” Trujillo said.
In any event, the election is off.
However, by the end of the day Friday, tens of thousands of absentee and early votes had been cast.
Both Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office, and the supervisor of elections office, have declined to say whether the results of the ballots that were cast will be revealed.
CBS4 News is pursuing a public records action in an effort to ensure that the results are made public.