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Florida Senate joins House in opposing Hillsborough’s transportation tax

The chamber tells the state Supreme Court that the challenge aims to protect voters.
House Speaker Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes, left, and Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
House Speaker Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes, left, and Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 9, 2019
Updated Sep. 9, 2019

A lawyer for the Florida Senate told the state Supreme Court on Monday that the chamber wants to weigh in against Hillsborough County’s transportation tax, joining their colleagues in the House.

“The Senate agrees with and supports the House position, which respects and protects the voters,” the lawyer wrote.

The court granted the motion a few hours later.

RELATED STORY: Florida Supreme Court to decide future of Hillsborough’s transportation tax

The case involves a charter amendment passed by 57 percent of Hillsborough voters in November that increased the sales tax by 1 percent to pay for transit, bike, pedestrian and road projects. The tax was estimated to raise more than $280 million annually.

But it quickly faced separate lawsuits by Hillsborough resident Bob Emerson and Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, who argued the tax was unconstitutional and usurps power from county commissioners.

After a circuit judge upheld the law, while also striking parts of it, both Emerson and White appealed to the Supreme Court.

Last week, the Florida House, led by Speaker José Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, took the unusual step of asking to weigh in on the case. An attorney for the House asked the court to reverse the lower court ruling and eliminate the tax.

The Senate is led by President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

Tyler Hudson, the chair of All for Transportation, the advocacy group that helped pass the charter amendment, called the move a “deliberate effort to silence the voters.”

“This is just another example of Tallahassee thinking it knows better than the voters they are sent there to represent," Hudson said in a statement.

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