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Hillsborough commissioners will appeal a ruling against its transportation sales tax referendum

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By a party line vote of 5-2, Hillsborough County commissioners decided to appeal a judge's ruling this week that ballot language for a 1% transportation sales tax referendum is misleading.

An appeal comes with an automatic stay of the judge's ruling that invalidated the referendum — but the stay can also be appealed.

By a party line vote of 5-2, Hillsborough County commissioners decided on Thursday to appeal a judge's ruling this week that ballot language for a 1% transportation sales tax referendum is misleading.

The hope is voters will get a chance to have their say at the ballot box for the Nov. 8 general election.

Commissioner Harry Cohen voted for the appeal, saying the issue is already in the hands of vote-by-mail voters.

"What is the danger in allowing people to vote?" Cohen said.

Commissioners Ken Hagan and Stacy White voted against the appeal.

White successfully sued to have a similar 2018 referendum thrown out after it was approved by 57% of voters, saying it violated the state constitution.

"And it took nearly four years to get it resolved," White said. "So an appeal here is likely to tie this up for four to six years. This issue will end up at the Florida Supreme Court and I do not believe this board is on solid legal footing."

An appeal comes with an automatic stay of the judge's ruling that invalidated the referendum.

However, Chief Assistant County Attorney Rob Brazel explained that this stay can also be appealed.

"As long as the stay is in place, it's a green light for the election. And if they stay is lifted, it's a red light for the election," Brazel said. "So, essentially, green means the citizens can vote and the stay is in place. And, if we get a red light, it's because either [County Circuit Court] Judge [Anne-Leigh Gaylord] Moe or the Second District has vacated the stay or lifted the stay."

And that would mean the process grinds to yet another halt.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.