Speedway effort on life support

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH, SPORTS

By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida: TALLAHASSEE¬†- A long third down conversion is needed to keep the Dolphins drive alive. And there’s no way to stop the clock.

The House speaker made it clear Thursday that the Miami Dolphins have an “uphill” effort to get hotel bed tax dollars for stadium improvements.

The proposal, which was tacked on to a Senate bill (SB 1828) Thursday, would support the on-going referendum that increases the hotel bed tax in Miami-Dade County and would create a ranking system within the state Department of Economic Opportunity for future stadium sales tax rebate funding proposals.

The second provision is directed towards proposals being pitched by Daytona International Speedway, Jacksonville for EverBank Field, and Orange County, which is assisting plans to get a top level soccer franchise. The Dolphins, planning $350 million in renovations, would also have to enter the ranking program.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the stadium effort isn’t a lock even after former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino tossed his support into the effort while visiting the House on Thursday.

“I’d say it’s an uphill battle for the Dolphins,” Weatherford said, without saying if he would bring the bill up for a vote on Friday.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, one of the sponsors of the House effort to bring the Dolphins proposal through the committee process, called the measure “on life support.”

“It still has a shot, but I wouldn’t bet on the odds right now,” Fresen said.

Earlier Thursday, the Senate attached the provisions of the stadium plan to a bill regarding tourist development tax revenues (SB 1828), which the House had earlier approved.

The tourist tax bill now returns in to the House for a last-minute shot.

“They can concur or they can not concur, it gets it on the floor,” said Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, who sponsored the Senate measure. “We’ve got to keep using the playbook.”

The House could also simply let the bill die.

Without legislative and gubernatorial approval of the sales tax money for the Dolphins, the tied-in referendum to increase the bed tax by 1 cent becomes a non-issue.

The Dolphins have agreed to pay $4.8 million for the May 14 special election as part of the pitch to voters, which includes agreeing to remain “long-term” in the county, repay the county at least $112 million after 30 years, and to pay penalties for failing to bring in premier football and soccer events to the stadium.

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