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State Senators Sue Gov. Scott Over Rail Project

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Governor Rick Scott (Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – A bipartisan pair of Florida State Senators has sued Governor Rick Scott in the Florida Supreme Court to force him to accept the federal money for a high-speed rail system.

Arthenia Joyner, a Democrat from Tampa, and Republican Thad Altman of Melbourne, claim Scott went far beyond his authority by rejecting the project. It was given the go-ahead by the Florida legislature during a special session in December 2009.

The Florida Supreme Court responded late Tuesday afternoon with an order for Governor Scott to produce a response to the lawsuit no later than 12:00 p.m. Wednesday. If Governor Scott replies, then Altman and Joyner would have to file a response by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday.

The lawsuit seeks to have the court force Scott to “expeditiously accept” the federal money, according to CBS Miami news partner the Miami Herald.

The Supreme Court wants to hear about the following issues: the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the matter; the standing of the legislators to bring the petition; the merits of the petition; the March 4, 2011 deadline for any decision regarding the high-speed rail funds.

The suit is the latest move since Governor Scott rejected the money. Part of his reasoning was that he feared the state would be on the hook for the whole amount, even though U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood assured him the state would not.

Scott also used the rejection to take shots at President Barack Obama and echoed many tea-party points.

“My position remains unchanged,” Governor Scott said in a statement late Tuesday. “I’ve yet to see any evidence that Florida taxpayers would not be on the hook. Senators Altman and Joyner’s disrespect for taxpayers is clear by their lawsuit trying to force the state to spend this money.”

But Scott may not be paying attention. The bipartisan support and near universal support from the business community is not getting through the governor’s my-way-or-the-highway routine. Secretary LaHood said Scott’s claims are “baloney.”

Democrats and Republicans in Florida, and in Washington, blasted Scott’s decision and have been trying to figure out a way around Scott’s decision.

“I’ve previously said I think the governor may have exceeded his authority in this matter,” said U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. “The stakes are too high not to seek further review of his decision. We’re talking about $2.4 billion and 24,000 jobs.”

Bipartisan outrage was also directed towards Scott for the fact that the construction and system would have brought many desperately needed jobs to the state. Scott’s decision violated his pledge to do whatever was needed to get jobs to the state.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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