Attorneys for state Sens. Thad Altman and Arthenia Joyner have responded to Gov. Rick Scott’s legal team with a filing that says the governor’s reply to their petition, filed earlier today, “seriously mischaracterizes” their original argument.
The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the case tomorrow afternoon, and a ruling is expected by Friday, to comply with a deadline set by the U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to allow Scott to change his mind.
The filing for Altman and Joyner says they never argued that the legislature needs to appropriate the $2.4 billion in federal funds. It says that under the Florida Rail Act passed in late 2009, Florida’s high-speed rail enterprise was set up to accept the money. Scott, therefore, doesn’t have the authority to reject it.
The filing states that Scott has “by his own admission in his Response, admitted that he does not intend to comply with the procedures and directives of the Florida Rail Act.”
As for the governor’s argument that, as citizens not acting on behalf of the legislature as a whole, the senators don’t have the standing to challenge his decision, the senators contend that “as citizens and taxpayers, they have a clear legal right, and the requisite standing, to request that the Governor carry out his constitutional duties,” which include complying with the Rail Act.
In other words, Scott does not have the power “to unilaterally decide the policies of the State of Florida.” Lawmakers have set that policy in the laws setting up the high-speed rail system, and until those laws change, Scott must execute them.
The filing concludes:
The Constitutional separation of powers is the people’s bulwark against one branch engaging in the “politics of the moment” in the conduct of the public’s business. The planning, financing, and construction of major infrastructure projects often require long time periods which transcend the terms of office of many elected officials, particularly with term limits imposed for elected officials. The financing and bonding of these large infrastructure projects necessarily require stability in government. The constitutional separation of powers doctrine produces long-term stability for government, as a consensus must develop among the branches to budget and execute the functions of government.