Gov. Rick Scott has responded to a petition filed with the Florida Supreme Court by two state senators calling on the court to require him to accept federal funding for a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa.
His response to yesterday’s filing by Sens. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, contends that “such an unprecedented order would render the separation-of-powers doctrine utterly meaningless” and “violate nearly every separation-of-powers principle known in American jurisprudence.”
Their policy preferences lost out in the political process, Scott’s filing contends, but “fortunately for the taxpayers of Florida, nothing in Florida law compels the Governor or the [state’s rail enterprise] to pour millions of dollars into a black hole during the historic fiscal crisis with which the State is presently grappling.”
Here some of the arguments offered by the governor’s legal team:
- Of the $2.4 billion in federal funds, the legislature has appropriated $2.27 billion.”Thus, to grant Petitioners their requested relief-the application of all proposed federal funds to a high-speed rail project-this the Court would have to (i) order the Legislature to enact specific appropriations for some $2.27 billion, (ii) order the Governor not to veto such legislation, and (iii) order the Legislature, if the Governor does veto the legislation, to override that veto.”
- The case’s timeline is too tight: “Although Petitioners knew of Governor Scott’s decision by February 16, 2011, they waited two weeks to file their ‘emergency’ petition, serving it on the Governor after 2:00 p.m. on March 1 and requesting a decision on the merits by March 4. The Court has ordered the Governor to respond by noon on March 2, and to ‘address, at a minimum the following: 1) The Jurisdiction of this Court to hear the matter, 2) The standing of the petitioners to bring this petition, 3) The merits of the petition, and 4) The March 4, 2011, deadline for any decision.’”
- As Sens. Altman and Joyner have said themselves, they are acting as citizens. Senate President Mike Haridopolos said Tuesday evening that he does not support bringing the case on behalf of the Legislature as a whole:
While Petitioners are Senators, they do not bring this action on behalf of the Legislature. Instead, their claim appears to be that they possess a right to have Governor Scott abide by what they purport is his duty under Florida Statutes. In other words, Petitioners allege that they have a generalized grievance that is shared equally by all Florida citizens.
- To that point, the filing adds that the legislature and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood are “indispensable parties” to the case, but have not been named in the petition.
Bottom line: The court should not get involved in a policy debate. Scott has decided he would rather pursue other projects:
Upon taking office, Governor Scott began deliberating the wisdom of moving forward with high-speed rail. After careful study, he concluded that such funds would be better invested “in higher yield projects” such as dredging improvements in the ports of Jacksonville and Miami; widening the 1-95 Interstate in Martin, St. Lucie, Brevard, and Volusia Counties; widening 1-4 in Orange County; improving 1-395 in Miami-Dade County; and widening I-275 in Hillsborough County. These projects promise far greater job creation and stronger, more permanent economic yield for the State and the taxpayers.
Altman and Joyner will have till 4 p.m. to respond.