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    House rejects Bush's bid for revote on bullet train

    Lawmakers rebuff the governor on a 61-57 vote.

    ©Associated Press
    April 23, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush's push to give Florida voters a chance to reverse themselves on a 2000 decision to build a costly high-speed train was stopped in its tracks Tuesday by the House.

    The Republican-led House rejected the proposal (HJR 309) by a 61-57 vote. A favorable vote by three-fifths of the members of each legislative chamber -- 72 of the House's 120 members and 24 of the Senate's 40 -- is required to put the bullet train back on the ballot in 2004.

    The House vote was a stinging rebuke for the second-term Republican governor, who called on lawmakers last month in his State of the State speech to give voters a chance to reconsider not only the amendment to build bullet trains, but also a measure they passed last year to cap class sizes.

    "We are disappointed and had hoped the voters would have had a chance to readdress this costly amendment," Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj said. A similar measure in the Senate narrowly came out of the transportation committee Monday.

    While Republicans hold an 81-39 edge in the House, party affiliation meant nothing during the lengthy floor debate. Twenty-nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voted down the proposal.

    The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, argued it was too costly for Florida and that other needs were more pressing.

    "You are simply allowing a ballot initiative to go on the ballot for the voters to decide in an informed environment if they want to repeal the vote," said Allen.

    But others were adamant about following voters' wishes.

    "Who are we to say the people didn't understand?" said Rep. Mitch Needelman, R-Palm Bay.

    "My voters were voting to eliminate pollution and gridlock," said Rep. Stacy Ritter, D-Coral Springs.

    Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, described the up-down vote on the bullet train as therapeutic for his members.

    "We're down to hours and minutes," he said, noting the May 2 scheduled adjournment. "It was better to go ahead and press it into a shorter time. "It is a part of the Florida Constitution. We need to move ahead and do what's necessary. There is a long way to go."

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