A simple analysis of how Democrats and Republicans voted on the rail bill supported by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist shows that, for those legislators who voted against the bill, Democrats were nearly three times more likely to have voted “nay” than the traditionally more conservative Republicans.
But that's not the whole picture for the legislation, which includes moving forward with plans for the $2.66 billion SunRail commuter rail project and funding the Tri-Rail operating deficits to the tune of $15 million a year.
Of the 146 total votes cast on the bill between House and Senate members, 41.2% of Democrats voted against it. For Republicans, only 14.7% voted against it.
In the 120-member House, which voted Dec. 7, the vote was 84-25 and the Democrats voted even more against the bill.
But the House voted before a deal negotiated between the Florida Department of Transportation, Senate leadership and CSX was cut with the AFL-CIO. The union's opposition evaporated when FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos wrote Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, stating FDOT would “require that bidders for the signal work be rail employers under the Federal Railroad Retirement Tax Act.”
With that agreement in place, what looked like a possible 19-18 Senate vote that would kill the whole deal, quickly changed to a 27-10 vote in favor on Dec. 8 when several Democrats — and it appears maybe a couple Republicans — got onboard.
The Democrats percentage would have been slightly higher had Sen. Charlie Justice, R-St. Petersburg, not paired his “nay” vote with Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Delray Beach. Deutch would have voted “yea,” but was excused from voting and instead cut a deal with Justice under Senate Rule 5.4 effectively cancelling out each other's votes.
Coffee Talk wonders if there was a quid pro quo there and if that deal was cut before the union agreement.