State leaders give several counties a say for expressway board

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. —

A major hurdle was cleared Wednesday in an effort to share control over the agency that runs the toll roads.

The Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority has had its problems, including some with the state attorney who is investigating how some board members helped eliminate a former chairman in an attempt to hire a new one.

On Wednesday, state senators agreed to give several more counties a say on the board.

But Channel 9's Kathi Belich learned a major road project in Osceola County could prevent the House from approving the Senate's idea.

An Osceola County leader said that state Sen.David Simmons, who sponsored the bill, is not budging on changes Osceola County wants.

The $93 million Poinciana Parkway is at the center of the concerns.

If the parkway isn't done by 2016 the senate bill says the expressway authority will cease to exist and the regional authority will take over the project..

But Belich was told Osceola County taxpayers may still be on the hook for some of the debt if the tolls don't cover it.

Senate Bill 230 was passed Wednesday in Tallahassee by a vote of 37-2.

The Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority believes the Senate bill protects other toll payers from having to pay for Osceola County's road.

The House bill gives Osceola County another seven years to plan more toll roads, which Osceola County leaders want to do.

House Bill 311's sponsor, Rep. Bryan Nelson, a Republican from Apopka, said he does not believe the differences will kill the plan for a regional agency.

He believes there's enough time to reach an agreement this session.

“If this were the last week it gets kind of sticky, but we have got plenty of time. We've also got some folks from the Polk County delegation weigh in to make sure they are protected to, since it connects to them,” Nelson said. “It is more far-reaching than just Osceola County. But the big picture is we need to look at regional transportation."

The House bill has one more committee stop to go before it goes to the floor for debate by the full House.

The session ends May 2.