Florida Legislature allows anti-bullying measure to fail

The Miami HeraldApril 17, 2014 

Dolphins Ross Football

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross laughs at a question during an NFL football media availability Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Davie, Fla. For an owner who has endured four consecutive losing seasons, Ross sounded remarkably patient Wednesday. He resisted any temptation to say he expected a double-digit win total or playoff berth this year, even after committing about $150 million to free-agent acquisitions over the offseason. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)


The Florida Legislature has once again proven unkind to Stephen Ross -- or at least uncooperative.

A year after his stadium renovation plan died in Tallahassee, Ross' anti-bullying bill appears to have suffered the same fate.

"I think we're going to have to work on this next year," said state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, the bill's co-sponsor. "You never say anything's dead until the last day, but it's going to take a lot."

The Dolphins' bid to earn tax dollars for major fixes to Sun Life Stadium failed on the final day of the 2013 session after contentious final-hour jockeying in the House was fruitless.

Immediately thereafter, Ross and then-CEO Mike Dee publicly blasted House Speaker Will Weatherford, setting off a contentious back-and-forth between the two sides.

But this time around, it appears the issue with Ross' legislation has been more procedural than political.

In the House, the bill overwhelming made it through the Civil Justice Subcommittee, albeit with amended language, roughly a month ago. There was just one dissenting vote. A week later, it was sent to the Education Committee, where it has been stuck, without action, ever since.

That new language stalled the progress on the Senate side, where it never received a hearing. The final day of the legislative session is May 2.

"There were some concerns that were raised to us about some aspects of the implementation," said Dolphins lobbyist Ron Book. "By the time we reworked it, time had just really run out. With all the meaningful changes in law, it sometimes takes more than one year to get there. In this case, it was exactly that situation."

Ross' proposal came on the heels of the Dolphins' embarrassing bullying scandal, in which an NFL investigator found players Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey engaged "in a pattern of harassment" directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but other Dolphins teammates and staff.

If passed, the bill would have codified suggestions made by NYU researchers on ways to combat bullying at an early age. It was sponsored by Braynon in the Senate and Brevard County-based Rep. Ritch Workman in the House.

Among the proposals:

• Require FHSAA to adopt bylaws regarding respectful conduct.

• Prohibit bullying or harassment in intercollegiate athletic events.

• Require training and reporting in schools and that athletic participants sign an anti-bullying pledge.

• Make it an unlawful employment practice for a professional sports franchise to fail to take reasonable measures to prevent abusive conduct.

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