House switches stance on fast train
TALLAHASSEE -- Under pressure from Gov. Jeb Bush and Republican leadership, the Florida House reversed course and voted Wednesday to reconsider putting the costly high-speed rail system amendment back on the ballot next year.
The vote represented a stunning overnight reversal. The House rejected the measure (HJR 309) Tuesday. But now it will again debate giving voters a second chance on the constitutional amendment approved in 2000 and opposed by Bush.
The motion to reconsider, brought by House Majority Leader Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, passed the GOP-led chamber by a 75-40 vote, in contrast to the chamber's 61-57 vote Tuesday to reject the measure.
"Yesterday you told us the public didn't know what they were doing when they voted, and today you are telling us that the Legislature didn't know what they were doing when they voted," Rep. Ken Gottlieb, D-Hollywood, said.
Voting for reconsideration Wednesday were 69 Republicans and six Democrats. Voting no were seven Republicans and 33 Democrats.
Sixty-nine of the 81 House Republicans voted to reconsider, including 19 who voted against putting it back on the ballot a day earlier, plus Rep. Don Brown, R-DeFuniak Springs, who did not vote on Tuesday. Five Republicans did not cast a vote.
Democratic Rep. Roger Wishner of Plantation changed from a "no" vote Tuesday to an "aye" on the reconsideration.
In order for the Legislature to get an amendment before voters, the bill must be approved by a three-fifths majority in each chamber instead of the usual simple majority. That would be 72 votes in the 120-member House, 24 in the 40-member Senate.
The vote Tuesday was such a stinging rejection of Bush's legislative priorities that it was hardly a surprise that Republican lawmakers sought to revive it under pressure from the governor.
"Historically, since I've been here, they twist the arms and get the votes," Gottlieb said. "I assume the governor wants the public to vote until they agree with him and he wants the Legislature to continue to vote until they agree with him, and I don't think that's the way the democratic process works."
House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, called the reconsideration "a matter of professional courtesy" to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, who had made the motion Tuesday to take a vote on the bill and then changed his mind and asked his colleagues to postpone action.
The Bush administration offered its approval.
"We're pleased the leadership in the House is going to reconsider this resolution," said Alia Faraj, a Bush spokeswoman. "We think the voters should have the opportunity to readdress this issue with more information."
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times state desk
From the state wire