Thursday, February 02, 2017

New high-speed rail litigation

Alexander Hunter

From the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail:

CC-HSR has gone back to court to prevent the California High-Speed Rail Authority from misusing Proposition 1A Bond Funds. Click here for a copy of the complaint filed by CC-HSR, the Town of Atherton, and other plaintiffs. 

One of the plaintiffs is former California State Senator Quentin Kopp, the person who probably most deserves the title of "father" of the California High-Speed Rail project. After his Senate service, Quentin Kopp became a Superior Court Judge. He also served for a time as the Chair of the High-Speed Rail Authority. The fact that Judge Kopp has joined this legal challenge highlights the unconstitutionality of what the Authority is proposing.

Proposition 1A was passed by California voters in November 2008. The Bond Act allocates about $9 billion to advance high-speed rail in California, but this bond measure (largely drafted under the oversight of then-Senator Quentin Kopp) contained lots of protections for the taxpayers. For one thing, the funds are legally restricted, and can only go to a project that will create a segment of the overall statewide system that will be "suitable and ready" for high-speed rail service. Furthermore, according to the Bond Act, no bond funds can be used for any project that will require an operating subsidy.

In previous litigation, the court has said that these provisions in the Bond Act will be taken seriously, and that the Bond Act is a kind of "financial straightjacket." In other words, the voters who passed the High-Speed Rail Bond Act in 2008, were supposed to be protected from a financial boondoggle, but that is exactly what this ill-planned and mismanaged project has become.

At the end of last year, in its latest effort to avoid the rigorous financial requirements of the Bond Act, the State Legislature adopted AB1889. That bill, signed into law by Governor Brown and effective on January 1, 2017, attempts to authorize expenditures that do not conform to the requirements of Proposition 1A.

In short, the Legislature is attempting to amend a voter-approved measure without going back to the voters to get their approval. Not only is this kind of action sneaky, it is also unconstitutional. The California Constitution makes clear that when the voters take action, the Legislature can't overturn what the voters have done unless the voters agree.

CC-HSR expects this case will go to trial relatively quickly, because there isn't any factual dispute. The facts are clear: The Legislature says it can disregard the will of the voters, and CC-HSR says it can't.

CC-HSR is an all-volunteer organization that has been fighting the mismanagement of the proposed California High-Speed Rail project since 2008. We have gone to court, lobbied in Sacramento, and held public meetings and rallies, and we are deeply grateful for the financial support we have received. 

As ever your contributions are deeply appreciated!

Rob's comment:
See Quentin Kopp's high-speed rail declaration in earlier litigation.

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