Tea baggers ready to crash Florida Legislature's dreams of getting federal funds for rail

The Florida House is scheduled to vote today on providing funding to continue to keep South Florida's Tri-Rail system alive, as well as building SunRail, a new commuter train through Orlando.

As you've no doubt been reading and hearing about, there have been a couple of factors that could block the legislation from being approved, with organized labor's concerns being one of them.  AFL-CIO President Mike Williams has said he sees the proposed bill as "state-sanctioned union busting."

Specifically, the union has said this before the special session began last Thursday:

“The legislation being considered for the proposed special session next week fails Florida workers by continuing to enable FDOT to have unfettered authority to fire railroad workers subject to federal railroad protections and safeguards and replace them with less qualified, less experienced transit employees not subject to federal railroad protections or safeguards,” the union said. “Therefore, the Florida AFL-CIO and our half-million members across Florida must reiterate our strong opposition to the CSX/SunRail transaction and the implementing legislation currently being considered for a special session."

Senate President Jeff Atwater reportedly has been meeting with union officials behind closed doors to get them to buy into the legislation, but again, that's in the Senate, not in the House version being approved today.

Fort Lauderdale Democratic State Senator Chris Smith said last week, ""I think the union issue is the key.  That union support or nonsupport is huge because everyone from South Florida is running for higher office."

Yes, that includes Dan Gelber, Dave Aronberg, and Ted Deutch.  Gelber and Aronberg are running against each other for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General, and Deutch is running in a special election to be held next year to replace outgoing South Florida Congressman Robert Wexler.

Meanwhile Aronberg is scheduled to be in Tampa tonight for a fundraiser.

Of course, if SunRail goes down, it won't be just the union guys who might be blamed for scuttling it.  There are a group of conservative Republicans who are agreeing more and more with Paula Dockery that the whole thing is a boondoggle.

The St. Pete Times is reporting this morning that the Lakeland legislator and gubernatorial candidate was the voice on a  robo call being sent out in North Florida over the weekend, urging people to come out today in Tallahassee to protest the $1.2 billion proposal. Dockery will be the featured speaker at the Tea Party

Other prominent conservatives are following in Dockery's footsteps, including the boy wonder of the conservative movement, Marco Rubio, who told the Palm Beach Post this weekend that "We should be wary of all the promises floating around Tallahassee about how this latest round of government spending will create lasting jobs and prosperity."

The Post noted nicely after that quote that Rubio voted against repealing a constitutional mandate for high-speed rail as a lawmaker in 2003.

All in all, it should be a fascinating week to watch state politics in Tallahassee.

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