Published reports from Washington indicate that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has given Florida officials one week to try to find a mechanism to receive the $2.4 billion for high-speed rail that was rejected Wednesday by Florida Governor Rick Scott.
That news came as it was discovered that 26 members of the state Senate have penned a letter to LaHood, urging him to not distribute the $2.4 billion to another state just yet. (Despite what you may have read elsewhere, that is not a 2/3rds majority, and thus not enough to override the governor, though we're uncertain if the Legislature gets any vote on this.)
The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo blogs that GOP state Senator Dave Simmons co-wrote the letter, along with Lakeland's Paula Dockery and Thad Altman from Melbourne:
"The bottom line is that he cant reject this money: It was already approved by another Legislature and another governor, said Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. Its like trying to veto a bill after it becomes law. Its too late.
Simmons said it also made no sense to allow other states to get what he says is the states fair share of federal money.
This is like holding a gun to our heads and telling the federal government: Dont give us this money or well blow our brains out, Simmons said
Earlier in the day Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said that the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization and a rail authority in South Florida have already offered to replace the state as the trustee of the funds.
However, there is one important caveat to those who may be excited by the prospect that the high-speed rail line may not be completely dead, which is: that Secretary LaHood said today that Governor Scott would have to approve any move that would shift the states role in the project to other local governments or an entity such as Amtrak.