By: Gary Fineout, Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Miami Dolphins effort to win state help for stadium renovations is moving in the Florida Legislature but the fight keeps getting harder.
A House panel on Friday became the third legislative committee so far this year to approve a bill that would guarantee $3 million a year in state money for the next 30 years to help pay for stadium upgrades.
But several legislators - including some from Miami-Dade County - voted against the bill.
"The NFL is conning us, vote against this madness," said Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants to use state and local dollars to help pay for $400 million worth of renovations to Sun Life Stadium, originally named Joe Robbie Stadium when it opened in 1987.
Dolphins management as well as other South Florida backers contend that the renovations will help the area in an effort to lure the Super Bowl for its 50th anniversary. But the renovations will also benefit the University of Miami Hurricanes and could help the state lure international soccer games.
"There is a lot of economic impact and a lot on the line in respect to the future of tourism," said Mike Dee, Dolphins chief executive officer.
The legislation has been approved by two Senate committees without much debate, although the Senate bill (SB 306) was amended this week to remove a 30-year-old tax break for banks. The change has drawn the opposition of the group that represents Florida banks. But some senators say they won't approve a new business incentive unless they remove other incentives that have outlived their use.
In an effort to sway some critics, the stadium bill has been changed to require a local referendum before local hotel bed taxes from Miami-Dade County can be used to help pay for the renovations.
But two Miami-Dade legislators on Friday wanted to change the bill further to require Ross to put up more of his own money for the renovations or to return money to taxpayers if the team were sold. Those efforts were defeated.
Norman Braman, a successful auto dealer and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, called on legislators to defeat the legislation.
"This is corporate welfare for a billionaire no matter how he calls it," Braman said.
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