Something extraordinary happened in Tallahasee this week. The legislature actually turned down a demand for hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare for the Miami Dolphins. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross descended on the capitol with an army of lobbyists and pocket legislators to muscle through the package to upgrade his stadium at public expense. They did all of the formulaic moves seen in other states where legislators have opened the treasury to billionaire owners: they lined up unemployed people who would get jobs, Dolphin fans supporting their team, and politicians standing with the owner. This time however legislators balked and actually voted the public rather than their personal interest.
Not all legislators of course. Ross found willing agents like Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah and Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, who did his bidding to raid the treasury for $350 million upgrade of Sun Life Stadium in a state that is cutting core educational and social programs. Even in the age of corporate welfare for sports teams, the demand was obscene.
It is particularly remarkable given Florida’s political structure. I worked as the legal consultant for the Florida House of Representatives for a year and was shocked by the degree of control exercised by lobbyists. Due to the lunacy of term limitations, members are not in office long enough to learn much about the system before they have to leave office. The result is that lobbyists write the laws and direct the members. Moreover, since members are only in office for a short time, they are more susceptible to offers of jobs and perks from lobbyists. I saw incredible parties thrown by lobbyists who found ways to shower staff and members with gifts. This is made even worse by the ridiculously short legislative sessions.
However, even with those problems of legislative capture in Florida, the members somehow stood up to the demands of Ross, who was irate at being denied hundreds of millions of dollars from Florida taxpayers. Keeping a straight face, Ross actually blamed the legislators of playing politics. He lashed out at House Speaker Will Weatherford and insisted “[h]e put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami Dade, and that is just wrong.”
In some strange universe where billionaires dwell, this may seem wrong, but it seems just right to most of us leaving on Earth.
Source: Miami Herald