Courts must decide if Scott can overlook state law

State Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) and Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) have filed a lawsuit as private citizens against Florida Gov. Rick Scott with the Florida Supreme Court.

They contend that Scott overstepped his authority by not abiding by a state law passed with the 2009 High Speed Rail Act which had the state accept $2.4 billion in federal funding for the high-speed rail project Scott rejected.

The suit aims to force Scott into accepting the federal funds.

Regardless if one thinks the rail is going to cost the state too much money – even with recent proposals to keep the state off the hook for overrunning cost and private investors willingly lining up to cover the rest of the $300 million construction cost – the suit correctly points out a conflict within the state government that must be addressed.

The lawsuit is “necessary at this time because our governor’s new – to let him know this is not a monarchy, he is not a king; this is a democracy,” Joyner said to the Orlando Sentinel.

Rick Scott is a tea party favorite and has promised and followed through with attempts to make major changes within the state government. However, the state’s Supreme Court must decide if Scott should be allowed to trump state law during his efforts.

South Carolina already sued former Gov. Mark Sanford in 2009, and successfully forced him to accept federal stimulus funds for the state that he rejected.

Florida’s suit could do the same and won’t cost taxpayers money because it is privately funded, according to the Sentinel.

If the court rules that Scott wasn’t overstepping the limits of his power, then both opponents and supporters of high-speed rail could move towards other important issues or new redesigned plans for mass transportation in Florida, as the current high-speed rail plans would be dead because Scott refuses to reconsider allowing the project.

Beyond concerns that the state would be at risk of actually spending money on the high-speed rail, Scott believes that the federal government shouldn’t be spending money by giving it to Florida for transportation projects, an argument similar to Sanford’s in 2009.

Considering the fact that these funds are federal, their allocation is not the concern or responsibility of any governor, regardless how often their campaign and current administration focused on federal issues, as Scott has. Since state law has already accepted the money, there’s an obvious conflict in the Florida’s power structure.

The high-speed rail project has become more of an ideological issue than a mere transportation issue. Opponents have called the project “Obama-rail” and even a Marxist construction, while rail supporters have accused Scott of treating Florida as his personal kingdom.

With such strong and polar convictions, both sides will fight against the other and use whatever strategy available to claim victory.

That’s why it’s critical that the courts act as a neutral body to finally bring some type of closure to the current high-speed rail debate, whether that means construction or demise.