The failure of the Legislature to let voters decide on two separate proposals involving the use of public money to support an invaluable South Florida institution of higher learning and a regional sports franchise amounts to a grave disservice to the people of Miami-Dade County.
Miami Dade College and the Miami Dolphins are different in fundamental ways. The denial of a critical funding opportunity for MDC carries serious and harmful implications for the college and the community it serves so well. But both the team and the college have ardent champions in this community and both received unfair treatment in the House, where bills they consider vital to their future were left unheard on the floor. This ignominious and undeserved legislative death sentence should have been averted in both instances.
The Legislature jealously guards Florida’s prerogatives from incursion by the federal government — state lawmakers say they know what’s best for Florida, as they so clearly demonstrated by slapping away the $51 billion Washington offered in Medicaid funding. But when it comes to extending that same line of thinking to local government — let local voters decide local issues — the tables are turned. Legislators routinely pull rank and make decisions local voters should make for themselves.
The bill to let Miami-Dade County levy a voter-approved, half-penny sales tax to support MDC projects passed by a 37-1 vote in the Senate. But it wasn’t heard in the House as a filibuster-like action by Democrats in the last week doomed various measures.
Whatever the reason, the callous disregard for the best interests of the people of Miami-Dade County is inexcusable. MDC has been a vital instrument in the growth and prosperity of this community, which is why it enjoys widespread support. It has nurtured hundreds of thousands of young Floridians who might otherwise have been shut out of the arena of higher learning.
The Miami-Dade delegation did its best, but it wasn’t enough. They should keep at it. Next time, the delegation may want to keep in mind what happened in this session and move this up on the priority list and on the calendar to avoid the trap of last-minute surprises.
As for the Dolphins: They, too, deserved an up-or-down vote in the House after winning Senate approval, but it was denied — also on the last day. What a shame. More than 60,000 votes already cast early and by mail for a May 14 referendum will be voided.
The deal offered by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross may have been anathema to those who question why billionaires need public funds for anything. But it was far better than the funding agreement involving the Marlins baseball team, and in the final days it was reported that Mr. Ross might have been willing to give up the portion involving purely state funds in order to win a vote.
Afterward, Mr. Ross directed bitter words at House Speaker Will Weatherford, who was blamed for spiking the vote, while others blamed Mr. Ross himself for not making a better case for his team.
After the anger subsides, cooler heads should prevail. Everyone should go back to the drawing board, keeping in mind that a renovated stadium promises to bring South Florida the excitement and economic benefit of future Super Bowls and international soccer.
That is something that should not be taken for granted, nor should the drive to upgrade the stadium be buried. It’s too important to the future of South Florida.