Yet not even support from the mayor and a majority of commissioners could sway House leaders, who were also hearing from a divided Miami-Dade legislative delegation. The Dolphins’ experience highlighted what Tallahassee veterans have known for years: Local politicians often hold little sway in the state Capitol.
“The Legislature in general is not influenced greatly by some of the resolutions that we pass at the local level,” said Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, a former state representative. “They’re just not.”
Democratic Rep. José Javier Rodríguez of Miami, one of several local representatives who worked to thwart the Dolphins’ legislation, noted that commission districts don’t usually line up with legislative districts. Without overlapping constituents, lawmakers have less of an incentive to agree with commissioners.
“The fact that the county commission took a position on something doesn’t necessarily mean much in Tallahassee, where we represent our constituents in our districts,” he said.
The team’s fate was tied more to its insistence on having a decision before National Football League owners award the 50th and 51st Super Bowls on May 22 than to anything the Dolphins did locally, said Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo, perhaps the team’s most vocal opponent.
“They tried to rush it through the political process,” he said. “And we didn’t want to raise taxes in order to give it to a billion-dollar, for-profit industry.”
Gimenez, for his part, stood by his deal and attributed its demise largely to the fact that — in addition to the bed-tax hike — the Dolphins wanted lawmakers to approve a $90 million sales-tax subsidy over 30 years for the stadium renovation.
“The death knell to this bill was probably the state-sales tax,” he said, adding that he thought the team would have dropped that request in the face of legislative opposition. “That’s probably what doomed their efforts.”
The Dolphins have laid the blame on House Speaker Will Weatherford, accusing him of reneging on a promise to give the bill a floor hearing. Weatherford has denied making the pledge.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, citing internal polls, has said the team expected voters to sign off on the deal in the May 14 referendum. But the team, which had raised at least $1 million for its campaign, has not released any poll figures. Other surveys have shown public stadium financing remains toxic among voters in the wake of the unpopular Marlins deal.
The county elections department next week plans to release a tally of the votes cast before the election was canceled.
Gimenez dismissed suggestions that the Dolphins saga would affect his political future.
“A politician would have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do this,’ just strictly for politics. It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “But I’m not a typical politician. I do what I think is the right thing.
“At the end of the day,” Gimenez added, “I think I’m fine.”