The fight over the future of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority just hit another roadblock. On Monday night, attorney's for the Florida Department of Transportation asked an appeals court to dismiss a constitutional challenge to a new law that would dissolve the MDX.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the creation of a new authority, called the Greater Miami Expressway Agency, that would oversee tolling on 5 county roads that are currently managed by MDX. However, attorneys for the Miami Dade Expressway Authority argued this new law violates the provision in the state's constitution related to "home rule."
Last week, WLRN spoke with State Senator Manny Diaz Jr., who sponsored the initial legislation dissolving MDX signed by Governor DeSantis. On Tuesday, we heard from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who's the board chairman for MDX. He spoke about the future of the toll authority and other transportation issues, as well as his future political aspirations.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.
WLRN: When this [the bill dissolving MDX] was still being debated in committee and then on the floor you wanted to talk to the governor about avoiding all of this and even possibly coming up with something else. Did you ever talk to the governor?
GIMENEZ: No, the governor never gave me an audience on this issue. He listened unfortunately to his legislators up in the state who falsely said that the delegation wanted this. Actually, the majority of the delegation did not want this. Certain people in leadership wanted it, like the speaker and Representative Bryan Avila (R-Miami Springs) and also Senator Manny Diaz. In conjunction also I have to say probably the lieutenant governor was very much involved in all of this.
If the department is successful, what does that mean for MDX?
No, I don't think it will be successful. What it means for MDX is that was just the first arrow. There's other reasons why this law, is we believe, unconstitutional and violate statute. There is tortious interference. There is a transfer agreement. The people of Miami-Dade County actually paid for those roads. They paid $91 million back in the 90s to operate, solely operate and maintain these roads. And the transfer agreement actually says that MDX will actually operate those roads in perpetuity. That's a contract between them the MDX, people in Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida.
We spoke with Senator Manny Diaz Jr. last week. He said this has nothing to do with home-rule. What’s your response to the Senator?
He has a fundamental lack of understanding of what 'home rule' really is. The state statute allowed Miami-Dade County to create MDX because the state cannot create MDX just like the state cannot create GMX. The Board of County Commissioners is the only entity that could create such an authority solely within Miami-Dade County. So he has a fundamental lack of understanding of what 'home rule' really is.
What 'home rule' says is that we're allowed to govern ourselves. The state can issue laws, what's called general application, that applies to all counties and then Miami-Dade County has to comply with those laws. But the state cannot come in and say we are going to create an expressway authority in Miami-Dade County that governs roads that only are in Miami-Dade County. That's a clear violation of the home rule.
The reason that the statute was written that way is so it actually allows Miami-Dade County to create that authority but the state could not create that authority on its own. Miami-Dade County had to take the step to pass an ordinance to create and MDX, but what they failed to do with GMX is they created GMX by themselves. GMX is only operating in Miami-Dade County and the roads are only in Miami-Dade County and that's where the judge says that's a clear violation of 'home rule.' It's a fundamental lack of understanding of what really 'home rule' is.