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Florida Senate Approves SunLife Stadium Bill


Update 10:07 p.m. EST: The Florida Senate approved the Dolphins bill, 36-4. Now the House will get its turn to pass its own version.

Believe it or not, early voting began Monday in Miami-Dade County in a referendum that may NOT be needed by the end of the week.

The Florida Legislature will ultimately decide to approve --or not-- legislation that calls for sales tax rebates from the state for renovations to Sun Life Stadium, home to the Miami Dolphins and University of Miami Hurricanes.

Lawmakers could also grant approval to the county to raise its mainland hotel tax from 6 to 7 percent to help pay for at least $350 million plus in upgrades, which the Dolphins claim are needed to attract big NFL games like the Super Bowl.

If state lawmakers say NO or choose not to vote on it, the referendum, which culminates on May 14th, will be called off.

Current legislation is no longer stalled after the Senate passed its own version of the bill with its tax increase and subsidy. The House now must move quickly because a compromise bill might have to be crafted by Friday.

Regardless of whether or not Tallahassee renders the vote meaningless, the Dolphins are underwriting the cost of the vote with a non-refundable check to the county for more than $4.7 million.

In the meantime, Miami-Dade residents can cast their ballots at 20 early-voting locations throughout the county.

On Monday, a steady trickle of voters on both sides of the issue made their way to the polls during the morning commute.

Rosemary Session from Miami ultimately decided to wait until May 14 to vote but supports the referendum, with the understanding that the renovations will lead to higher public revenue and more jobs.

However, Peter Smith and Nydia Orta of Miami opposed the plan but for slightly different reasons. Smith felt taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for the private project while Orta had a bad taste in her mouth from the last upgrade to a pro sports venue.

"I love the Dolphins. I support my Dolphins. I love football. But we got burned with the Marlins, so no," she said.