Reps. Cretul, Aubuchon discuss need for rail project
House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, told reporters Wednesday that black lawmakers have known since Nov. 25 that the special session on rail projects would start Dec. 3. He defended his decision to reject a proposal by black legislators to delay the start of the session until next Monday, so they can attend a national legislative conference in Fort Lauderdale.
"You have to keep in focus just exactly what your responsibilities are," said Cretul, who agreed with Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who faulted legislators who "whine when it's time to do your job."
At least 30 House members are expected to seek excused absences from the session's first two days, when a House council will debate and likely approve legislation transferring 61 miles of CSX track from Poinciana to DeLand to the state for SunRail, a new commuter rail project. The bill also creates a new state rail office, sets a new source of operating money for South Florida's Tri-Rail system.
The rail bill's sponsor is second-term Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral (left), a home builder and history grad of the University of Michigan. Aubuchon said the rail legislation will be a magnet for job creation and said it is needed for the "increased likelihood of drawing down additional federal dollars" for a high-speed rail linking Tampa, Miami and Orlando. Without providing many specifics, Aubuchon said SunRail's $2.7-billion cost over 30 years would add 100,000 new jobs over 20 years.
Interestingly, both Aubuchon and Cretul said they voted against a proposed constitutional amendment in 2000 establishing a high-speed rail. Voters later repealed the project, largely at the urging of then-Gov. Jeb Bush and then-state treasurer Tom Gallagher.