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Weekly Roundup: Going Off the Rails on a Crazy Train

March 4, 2011 - 6:00pm

If Florida residents or tourists want to get from Tampa to Orlando they can get on Interstate 4 like everyone else. How many ways does Gov. Rick Scott have to say it?

Scott doesnt care if one of these bullet trains can get you across Central Florida faster than NASA can lay off workers. He doesnt want it. Please get that through your wide-eyed, stimulus-loving, unrealistic brains.

This week was an easy one to round up, really. It was a repeat of the last two weeks.

Scott says the state cant afford a train and were not taking the federal governments money to build one. Backers of the train say, "But there must be a way." And Scott fights them and wins. Theres the last few weeks in a nutshell.

No wonder Scott doesnt want a statewide database tracking who is taking prescription drugs. These train people must have him reaching for the Xanax.

This weeks drama, such as it was, was set in the state Supreme Court, where a lawyer for Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, argued to the justices that Scott simply couldnt decide not to build the train because, basically, the Legislature laid the tracks in the law back in 2009. Ignoring what legislators did back then amounts to him vetoing legislation from another session, which he cant do, the legislators lawyer argued.

In what was a pretty high-profile debut, the governors brand new general counsel, Charles Trippe, who probably just figured out this week what the office password for the Lexis account is, said the governor wasnt violating any laws by not taking money for a future project. And on Friday, Trippe was a winner, making him 1-0 in his new job.

The court agreed with Scott, who once again found himself saying thanks, but no thanks, to Washington. Scott spoke Friday morning by phone with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who now will likely give the money to another state.

There might be another day or so of this. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he was throwing a Hail Mary, to try to find out if there was still some way that the local governments in Central Florida could build the train, but most train backers were acknowledging defeat.

Meanwhile, Scott managed to get to work on trying to get the state to work this week. He named a new director for Enterprise Florida which works to bring other companies to the state after swooping into Mississippi to lure Gray Swoope away from Haley Barbour. Swoope will be tasked with trying to get companies to open up shop in Florida the way he did when he got Toyota to build a plant in Mississippi.

Scott also announced what may be his first really big job-creation project, saying on Friday he wants the state to spend $77 million to dredge a deeper Port of Miami, allowing it to accept the larger ships expected to pass through the Panama Canal.

Just as critics of his resistance to high-speed rail were saying that his opposition would cost the state 24,000 jobs, Scott basically one-upped them. Actually, he 6,000-upped them, claiming that deepening the Miami port would create 30,000 jobs. Take that, train lovers.

The Sierra Club turned Scotts mantra about the train back on the port, saying that there was no way it wouldnt be plagued by cost overruns that would in the long run cost taxpayers.


Meanwhile, another Supreme Court should decide whether the federal health care law is constitutional, a Florida federal judge said this week. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson had a strange order granting a stay of his earlier ruling that he said was meant to block the health care law from taking effect. Hes willing to put it on hold for a week, allowing the feds to continue to move toward implementing it, as long as they appeal it within that week.

Vinson humbly acknowledged that his wont be the last word on whether the Obama administrations health care law remains law or not but blasted the federal government for moving too slowly in getting an appeal going. This thing ought to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and quickly, because its such a big deal, he said.

Florida was the lead plaintiff in the suit and will next be arguing at the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, where the federal government said it would go next with the case.


The most widely read book in the capital city this week was Florida Legislative History and Process by Senate President Mike Haridopolos. The book shot to No. 6,726 on the best-seller list by Friday likely an enormous jump in readership from last Friday when pretty much nobody had read it.

Haridopolos sometime lists his occupation as author and that got The Associated Press wondering this week author of what? There were a few stories a few years back about the fact that Haridopolos had been paid $152,000 by Brevard Community College to write the tome, which was billed as a text-book quality look at Florida political history. The book hadnt been read much, though, to determine whether it was worth what the taxpayers paid him to write it because there was only one copy.

The APs Brendan Farrington turned everyone within a two-block radius of the Capitol into a literary critic this week when he decided to go down to BCC and read the thing, and reported that it was mostly just political advice that wasnt very, well, deep. With everyone then talking about it, BCC made an e-version of the book available on Amazon and anyone with a Kindle can now check it out for $9.99, which goes to the college.

Among the pearls of wisdom in the book are that at a minimum a candidate must know his own position on all the important issues, and that a bill is simply a written proposal for a new law or for a change in existing law."

But as he got all kinds of grief for it this week, if Haridopolos looked back on his writing at all, perhaps he was drawn to this topical observation from his book: Everyone, without exception, will see everything the candidate does."

Those who were already critics of the Senate president who is now running for the U.S. Senate --had a field day.

"After reading Mike Haridopolos' book from cover to cover, I am honestly less informed about the legislative process than when I started, snarked Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff, who spent part of the week tweeting sentences from the book.

Haridopolos took it in stride, noting as he did in the book in the first place, that candidates will always be persecuted.

When youre running for office, trying to change America, people are going to throw a lot of things at you, and I just have to withstand the slings and arrows, Haridopolos told

STORY OF THE WEEK: Gov. Rick Scott remains bullet (train) proof. The governor weathered a court fight this week and finally got to say that no really means no when it comes to high-speed rail. For the last time, take your Obama-linked money and spend it somewhere else, LaHood. Really.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "A cell phone will be essential ... A computer with an Internet connection is equally important." Mike Haridopolos from his book of advice to political candidates, completed in 2007.


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