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Special Session

December 3rd, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida lawmakers are back in Tallahassee tonight for a nine-day special session to create a commuter rail system in Florida. A plan to take over 61 miles of track in Central Florida has failed two years running, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the governor and legislative leadership are hoping the third time is the charm.

Florida faces either a future of highway gridlock….or commuting by high-speed rail. So say backers of the proposed commuter rail system

Lawmakers began a nine-day special session that is full of uncertainty, and with dozens of lawmakers absent. The Senate President has pushed the session and is a champion of the rail projects.

The people of Florida are demanding action and are desperate for relief,” Senate President Jeff Atwater said. “I will ask you, to look at this anew, with an open mind.”

The 61-mile Sun Rail project linking four central Florida counties has been killed twice. The leading opponent is still on the war path.

No, the deal has not changed,” Rep. Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland) said. “Were still paying 10.5 million dollars a mile, when we should be paying under a million a mile.

And there are union issues. Hundreds of jobs protected under federal law could be lost, which causes the powerful AFL-CIO concern.

This legislature came to determine if the jobs that are created are to be meaningful jobs that helps economic recovery,” AFL-CIO President Mike Williams said.

Cost is another factor. Tri-Rail in southeast Florida would require 15 million a year in subsidy.

There are so many details to be worked out, we wont know until next week, whether this train stays on track or whether this whole deal gets sidetracked.

The House is expected to pass the 49-page bill easily, but the Senate remains a question mark.

The first votes could occur early next week.

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