Thursday, March 3, 2011

Florida Supreme Court to rule
on high-speed rail suit Friday

From Janet Zink and Philip Morgan of the St. Petersburg Times on March 3:
TALLAHASSEE — With two state senators charging that Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his executive authority by killing Florida's high-speed rail line without consulting the Legislature, Scott's attorney took a strong stance Thursday in oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court.

"The governor is not in violation of any law," Charles Trippe said as he opened his remarks.

Sens. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, filed suit Tuesday after Scott last month rejected a $2.4 billion federal award to build the Tampa-Orlando line. Lawmakers in December 2009 voted to build the line, and appropriated $130 million in federal money to make it happen.

They say Scott is ignoring a state law and, in effect, issued a veto he is not entitled to.

Attorneys on both sides have asked for a ruling Friday. That's the deadline set by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to resolve the issue. After that, he has said, he will give the money to other states. Scott's schedule says the governor will speak to LaHood by phone at 9 a.m.

Trippe's assertion that Scott has done no wrong prompted peppering from justices Peggy Quince and James Perry.

"Isn't the governor mandated by the Constitution to carry out the statutes and laws of the Legislature?" Perry asked. "The Legislature said, 'Let this be.' The governor said, 'No.' Isn't that in fact a veto?"

After additional questioning about whether Scott inappropriately took over the legislative task of appropriations, Trippe said that $110 million has already been spent on the project, and the governor had no intention of using the remainder for anything else.


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