The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing for the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act (House Bill 269) set for this morning was postponed. The bill’s companion, Senate Bill 386, passed out of the Senate Transportation committee unanimously on March 14.
Representative MaryLynn Magar (R-Hobe Sound) said she has an amendment to HB 269, focusing the bill narrowly on safety issues and on ensuring that the costs associated with high-speed rail throughout the state are borne by any railroad company operating high-speed passenger rail service and not by Florida’s taxpayers.
“The house has been moving away from spending public dollars on private projects,” said Magar. “When private companies come into the state with their projects, they should pay for the costs associated with that project. Using government resources for these private projects is not appropriate.”
Magar plans to continue to carry the bill forward, pledging to work with the co-sponsors, stakeholders, constituents and fellow legislators to make sure they get the policy right. She said the next step is to set another hearing date, while continuing to work with other house members on their understanding of the bill’s goals.
Magar added that her amendment would allow governments that want to pay for certain costs associated with high-speed rail the ability to do so. “But, if the community doesn’t want to pay for a private project, they should not have to. That’s why I’m willing to talk about the bill with a very narrow focus going forward,” she said.
The district Magar represents includes some of the Treasure Coast communities which have been fighting All Aboard Florida’s plans to run trains with speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour through the downtowns of many of the region’s communities. “I have two things I’m focusing on,” said Magar. “Safety is number one and number two is using taxpayer dollars very carefully.” She noted that many house members are picking up on the importance of both these principals within her bill.
In response to the postponement, Citizens Against Rail Expansion FL Chairman Brent Hanlon thanked Magar and co-sponsor Representative Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach). “We are disappointed that the subcommittee did not debate the bill today, but we respect the legislative process, and look forward to more dialogue about this important legislation in due course,” said Hanlon.
“All Aboard Florida (AAF) is taking a victory lap today in its public statements, but its latest actions are nothing more than a special interest group flexing its political muscle in a desperate attempt to protect its profits which are reliant on taxpayer subsidies,” said Hanlon.
Hanlon committed to continuing to advocate for putting public safety first. “AAF continues to put the communities of South Florida on the hook for millions in upgrades to enhance safety measures and make a grab for taxpayer subsidies, he said. “This is nothing more than an ill-conceived rail project by a private company that wants to shift costs to the taxpayers.”