Dissatisfied with the ballot language their own attorneys proposed, Pinellas County commissioners voted on Tuesday to use the wording written by the county's transit authority.
The language will not be finalized until Dec. 10, when the commission votes to put the referendum on the ballot in 2014. But at its meeting on Tuesday, the commission took a step toward selecting which of the several versions of the language will appear before voters.
The version it chose contains essentially the same information as the language proposed by the county staff, but flips the order in which it's presented. Rather than first saying that the county is seeking approval of a sales tax increase to pay for expanded bus service and passenger rail, the new version begins by telling voters about the transportation expansion plans before asking them to pay for it.
It also includes a mention of plans to increase bus frequency and expanded operation hours, information that could appeal to voters who would ride county buses if the system was more reliable.
"It just reads more smoothly," said Commissioner Susan Latvala. "You start out with what it is that's being proposed."
The commission voted 5 to 1 to select the transit authority's ballot language, directing the county attorney to make several minor tweaks to it.
Commissioner Norm Roche, who has repeatedly said he will not support spending public money to build light rail in Pinellas, was the sole vote in opposition. Roche proposed using ballot language that he'd written, one version of which asked for a half-cent sales tax increase to pay only for improvements to the bus system, but the majority of the commissioners supported the full one-cent increase.
Anna M. Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8779.