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Flawed Plan Killed Florida HSR

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PRR 60

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From the New York Times, 3/11/11:

The rest of the world calls them bullet trains because they go so fast. But in the United States, the nickname is apt for a different reason: They keep getting shot down.
...The story of the (Florida) line’s rise and fall shows how it was ultimately undone by a tradeoff that was made when the route was first selected.
The full story is HERE.
 
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From the New York Times, 3/11/11:

The rest of the world calls them bullet trains because they go so fast. But in the United States, the nickname is apt for a different reason: They keep getting shot down.
...The story of the (Florida) line’s rise and fall shows how it was ultimately undone by a tradeoff that was made when the route was first selected.
The full story is HERE.
Given the visceral dislike by some on this forum for anything that has the imprint of The New York Times, I guess I'm sticking my neck out by saying the article gives an excellent overview of Florida's HSR history and a sense of the issues that will affect plans in California and other states. Thanks for posting it.
 

Spokker

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So it would have been built had they tried to do Miami in phase 1?

The project was killed by ideology. Tampa-Orlando is a good distance for trains. It was planned to eventually be extended to Miami. Even if they had picked a better route, nothing was going to change Scott's mind.
 
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amtrakwolverine

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So it would have been built had they tried to do Miami in phase 1?

The project was killed by ideology. Tampa-Orlando is a good distance for trains. It was planned to eventually be extended to Miami. Even if they had picked a better route, nothing was going to change Scott's mind.
I didn't know scott had a mind :giggle:
 

Anderson

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So it would have been built had they tried to do Miami in phase 1?

The project was killed by ideology. Tampa-Orlando is a good distance for trains. It was planned to eventually be extended to Miami. Even if they had picked a better route, nothing was going to change Scott's mind.
The project was poorly selected from the start. What Obama should have done, if he wanted to push this along, was to get Congress to stick in a waiver on the EIS process cutting that phase down at least somewhat (say, permitting the Tier I and Tier II processes to be merged in some way) or cutting off some of the lawsuit potential (exempting certain segments of the reports from being challenged in court). In a lot of cases, you'd trim a year or two off of the construction processes with that. I know that planning takes time, but there are ways to knock that time down.

Considering the bad reaction, I would also raise the possibility that a better-selected project might have found itself subjected to a legislative overturn of Scott's decision. Scott wanted to get in the way, but I would think the legislature could have shotgunned a "we accept this money and we reassign the project to somebody the Governor can't fire" bill through. I'm not familiar enough with the lawsuit that was filed, but I'd think a direct attack like that with a forced override would've been sufficient to force his hand.

And...Tampa-Orlando is a decent distance for a train, but spending money to run a non-nonstop train between the two at 160 MPH is a waste, particularly with no downtown-to-downtown service (again, why am I going to drive halfway across town to "save time"?). To use a personally applicable situation, there is no way I would take the train to Richmond if I lived ten miles from the station (say, out in Poquoson or York County), but because I'm about a mile away, it is convenient for me.
 

jis

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Considering the bad reaction, I would also raise the possibility that a better-selected project might have found itself subjected to a legislative overturn of Scott's decision. Scott wanted to get in the way, but I would think the legislature could have shotgunned a "we accept this money and we reassign the project to somebody the Governor can't fire" bill through. I'm not familiar enough with the lawsuit that was filed, but I'd think a direct attack like that with a forced override would've been sufficient to force his hand.
Didn't the Florida Supreme Court rule that Scott's decision sticks and the legislature could not do much about it?
 

Anderson

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Considering the bad reaction, I would also raise the possibility that a better-selected project might have found itself subjected to a legislative overturn of Scott's decision. Scott wanted to get in the way, but I would think the legislature could have shotgunned a "we accept this money and we reassign the project to somebody the Governor can't fire" bill through. I'm not familiar enough with the lawsuit that was filed, but I'd think a direct attack like that with a forced override would've been sufficient to force his hand.
Didn't the Florida Supreme Court rule that Scott's decision sticks and the legislature could not do much about it?
Here's where I might be a bit out of my depth, but what I think happened is this:

-2/3 of the State Senate signs the letter to Scott. Scott won't back down.

-Under pressure, I think one or two Senators ended up doing a political tapdance on the issue.

-Legality ensues. Court rules that Scott can refuse the funding.

What I'm not sure about is the existence of laws on the project versus it being an executive matter. The understanding I have is that the project was entirely under the executive rather than stemming from a legislative mandate, which meant that he could kill it (anything which originates with the executive can terminate with it, as a rule) and the lawsuit was an attempt to stop it. What I don't know is:

1) If the issue was overriding a likely veto from the Governor (they may have always been a few votes shy in the House); or

2) What Scott's impoundment powers are (if any).

On the federal level, at least, if a project is authorized and funded by Congress, the President can't simply refuse to spend the money (though if there's money left over from the appropriation, I know that can be returned to the Treasury if the project comes in under budget)...but every state is different in what it lets the Governor do. My best guess is that an override was likely to fall short, so they switched to a lawsuit instead.
 

AlanB

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My understanding of things regarding the law suit went like this:

The legislature and previous Governor had allocated about 1/3rd of the total state funds that would be needed. Normal procedure for a project like this.

Because of that, they argued that Governor Scott didn't have the ability to refuse the money, since it was already a done deal prior to his administration.

Court said, "If you had appropriated all the needed money, then we would have ruled in your favor. Because you didn't, the project isn't a done deal and he can refuse the money."

A bit of over-simplicfiation, but in a nut shell that's what happened.

If the legislature had the time, they could in theory pass another bill authorizing the rest of the needed funds, and AFAIK only the Senate would need to override the almost certain veto from the Gov, which they can do. The problem is the amount of time that will take, and of course the question of will all those in the Senate actually step up to the plate and make a public vote to override the veto. And then assuming an override did happen, they might well have to head back to court to get an order to force the Gov to spend the money.

I doubt that the White House was willing to wait for all of that to happen, if Floria was even considering it.
 
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Anderson

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Well, the time isn't necessarily the issue. In a lot of states, they could have taken a bill that was on the floor already and slapped a rider onto it providing the funding (something similar was done in VA to prevent liquor advertising deregulation this year, and we have restrictive single-purpose legislation); even failing that, they could have rammed it through under a suspension of the rules.

My gut says that Obama wanted the FL project badly enough (because of when it could have been done by) that if 2/3 of the Senate were willing to commit themselves to an override, he would have pressed LaHood to play ball and give them the week or two. My guess is that 2/3 of the Senate was willing to yell as Scott (per that letter) but not necessarily to override him.
 
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PRR 60

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My understanding of things regarding the law suit went like this:

The legislature and previous Governor had allocated about 1/3rd of the total state funds that would be needed. Normal procedure for a project like this.

Because of that, they argued that Governor Scott didn't have the ability to refuse the money, since it was already a done deal prior to his administration.

Court said, "If you had appropriated all the needed money, then we would have ruled in your favor. Because you didn't, the project isn't a done deal and he can refuse the money."

A bit of over-simplicfiation, but in a nut shell that's what happened.

If the legislature had the time, they could in theory pass another bill authorizing the rest of the needed funds, and AFAIK only the Senate would need to override the almost certain veto from the Gov, which they can do. The problem is the amount of time that will take, and of course the question of will all those in the Senate actually step up to the plate and make a public vote to override the veto. And then assuming an override did happen, they might well have to head back to court to get an order to force the Gov to spend the money.

I doubt that the White House was willing to wait for all of that to happen, if Floria was even considering it.
I don't think the decision of the Florida Supreme Court was based on the amount appropriation of money by the legislature. The Supreme Court ruled that the petitioners (the group of state senators) had no basis for their claim that the Governor exceeded his constitutional authority by refusing to spend the appropriated high speed rail funds. The complete ruling (and it is short and sweet) is HERE.

The bottom line is that the legislature can appropriate funds (with the signature of the Governor), but the authority to spend those funds is solely with the executive branch.
 

jis

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I don't think the decision of the Florida Supreme Court was based on the amount appropriation of money by the legislature. The Supreme Court ruled that the petitioners (the group of state senators) had no basis for their claim that the Governor exceeded his constitutional authority by refusing to spend the appropriated high speed rail funds. The complete ruling (and it is short and sweet) is HERE.

The bottom line is that the legislature can appropriate funds (with the signature of the Governor), but the authority to spend those funds is solely with the executive branch.
So this would appear to be different from the way things are at federal level? Can the President simply decide not to spend appropriated funds and sit on it thus exercising a pocket veto of sorts?
 

AlanB

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My understanding of things regarding the law suit went like this:

The legislature and previous Governor had allocated about 1/3rd of the total state funds that would be needed. Normal procedure for a project like this.

Because of that, they argued that Governor Scott didn't have the ability to refuse the money, since it was already a done deal prior to his administration.

Court said, "If you had appropriated all the needed money, then we would have ruled in your favor. Because you didn't, the project isn't a done deal and he can refuse the money."

A bit of over-simplicfiation, but in a nut shell that's what happened.

If the legislature had the time, they could in theory pass another bill authorizing the rest of the needed funds, and AFAIK only the Senate would need to override the almost certain veto from the Gov, which they can do. The problem is the amount of time that will take, and of course the question of will all those in the Senate actually step up to the plate and make a public vote to override the veto. And then assuming an override did happen, they might well have to head back to court to get an order to force the Gov to spend the money.

I doubt that the White House was willing to wait for all of that to happen, if Floria was even considering it.
I don't think the decision of the Florida Supreme Court was based on the amount appropriation of money by the legislature. The Supreme Court ruled that the petitioners (the group of state senators) had no basis for their claim that the Governor exceeded his constitutional authority by refusing to spend the appropriated high speed rail funds. The complete ruling (and it is short and sweet) is HERE.

The bottom line is that the legislature can appropriate funds (with the signature of the Governor), but the authority to spend those funds is solely with the executive branch.
Note the following from the decision:

the Court has determined that the petitioners have not clearlydemonstrated entitlement to quo warranto, mandamus, or any other relief.
From the scope of the questions asked during the presentation of arguments, it seemed pretty clear to me that one of the points that the justices hung their hat on was the fact that the legislature hadn't appropriated the entire amount needed and therefore hadn't demonstrated a clear desire to build the thing.

I'm not saying that the judges would have ruled in favor had all the money been appropriated, they may well have found some other reason to strike the suit down. But again from what I saw of the questioning, it seemed to me at least to be a critical point with them that full funding had not been provided prior to Governor Scott taking office.
 

Anderson

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I don't think the decision of the Florida Supreme Court was based on the amount appropriation of money by the legislature. The Supreme Court ruled that the petitioners (the group of state senators) had no basis for their claim that the Governor exceeded his constitutional authority by refusing to spend the appropriated high speed rail funds. The complete ruling (and it is short and sweet) is HERE.

The bottom line is that the legislature can appropriate funds (with the signature of the Governor), but the authority to spend those funds is solely with the executive branch.
So this would appear to be different from the way things are at federal level? Can the President simply decide not to spend appropriated funds and sit on it thus exercising a pocket veto of sorts?
Not post-Watergate. Congress passed a law allowing the President to "hold" funds and ask Congress to rescind funding for a period of time, but if they don't, he's (at least in theory) stuck. What would happen if a President emphatically refused to spend money (say, a theoretical appropriation "to the personal bank account of Mr. X for purposes as he should see fit") is a good question that I do not think has come up.

So...let's ask a question: Assume that the legislators had slapped the remaining funding onto a bill before the legislature that they could add it onto. They pass it, it gets vetoed, they override. That seems simple enough...at least on paper. Reality is invariably more complicated.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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So this would appear to be different from the way things are at federal level? Can the President simply decide not to spend appropriated funds and sit on it thus exercising a pocket veto of sorts?
So not my field or my intrest. However I have heard at least once an US Senator complain that the White House was not release funds for an certain project. So it seem the answer to your question would be "Yes"
 

Anderson

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So this would appear to be different from the way things are at federal level? Can the President simply decide not to spend appropriated funds and sit on it thus exercising a pocket veto of sorts?
So not my field or my intrest. However I have heard at least once an US Senator complain that the White House was not release funds for an certain project. So it seem the answer to your question would be "Yes"
Well, there are ways that funding can be bottled up...for example, requirements needing to be met to release money for a project. There are ways, they just aren't "official".
 
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