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Effort to kill Fla. high speed rail moves forward

(The Associated Press circulated the following article by Jackie Hallifax on June 2.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A proposed ballot measure to kill Florida's voter-mandated high-speed rail project cleared its first milestone Tuesday, with enough signatures to warrant review by the state Supreme Court.

Elections officials have verified nearly 55,000 petitions submitted by Derail the Bullet Train, a campaign led by Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher. That's more than 10 percent of the 488,722 needed to make the ballot.

Besides collecting nearly half a million signatures to go before voters, all citizen initiatives must get a green light from Florida's high court.

The court doesn't consider the merit of the proposed constitutional amendments, but reviews them to make sure they deal with only one subject and are fairly described in their ballot title and summary. That review isn't triggered until a campaign has 10 percent of the signatures needed.

In 2000, voters approved a ballot measure ordering the state to build a high-speed train. The first leg of the proposed rail network runs from Orlando to Tampa. The plan is for the train to eventually connect Orlando with Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Gov. Jeb Bush, a persistent and loud critic, and Gallagher are pushing for a repeal through a new petition drive that seeks to make the 2004 ballot.

Their campaign has collected more than half the signatures needed, Gallagher said Tuesday.

"Hundreds of thousands of Floridians who share our concern for fiscal responsibility have signed this petition to stop the train they would never ride and cannot afford," Gallagher said in a statement issued by the campaign.

The deadline for verified signatures is Aug. 3. Elections officials around the state are busy checking petitions turned in by about a dozen different campaigns.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

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