Kings County attorney: Don’t overreact to pro-bullet train ruling

Kings County attorney: Don’t overreact to pro-bullet train ruling

high-speed-rail-map-320A state appellate court ruling announced Thursday overturning Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny’s 2013 decisions saying the state rail authority didn’t have a legal financing plan or adequate environmental reviews to proceed with construction of the initial segment of the state bullet-train project was expected.

At a May hearing, judges signified their readiness to defer to the Legislature — at least so far — in determining whether state efforts were meeting the safeguards in Proposition 1A, the 2008 ballot measure providing $9.95 billion in bond seed money for the$68 billion project.

Below is the initial reaction of Michael Brady, one of the attorneys representing Kings County and other plaintiffs targeting the California High-Speed Rail Authority. In a nutshell, he says this isn’t a sweeping victory for the state — just a victory at a very early stage of years of court fights that is tempered by the appeals court’s acknowledgment of the project’s shortcomings:

1. We are disappointed in the decision in that we think it ignores  150 years of precedent which respects the intent and the protection of the voters who engage in the initiative process.  Proposition 1A had various safeguards and protections which do apply to this case, and we question whether the court has properly interpreted those protections; the court itself on several occasions even conceded that the initial funding plan was “deficient.”

2. However, the court was dealing with what is called the INITIAL funding plan procedures of Proposition 1A; it seems to be saying that those requirements were meant to provide notice to the legislature only and not to provide a measure of protection to the voters themselves (we disagree with that);

3. We still have (and the court so indicated) an opportunity to challenge the legality of the Authority’s actions when the Authority moves to the NEXT STEP and  actually tries to access the monies in the bond fund; they have to apply for that money through a different section of the law-a section which is actually much tougher on the Authority with respect to what it has to prove;

4. For example, when the Authority applies under the 2d/updated funding plan, they have to make a stronger showing that they have enough money in the bank or firmly committed  to be able to complete the usable segment that they picked-a segment costing, in today’s dollars, about $35 billion.  They only have $6 billion of that, or 20%; that will not suffice and they will not be allowed to access Proposition 1A for construction costs until they have the full $35 billion; that will be a heavy burden;

5. We also believe that the Authority when they apply for Proposition 1A bond funds will have o demonstrate that they have obtained all the environmental clearances for the entire 300 mile usable segment that THEY picked; they have at present nothing  beyond Bakersfield , nothing through the Tehachapi’s all the way to the Los Angeles Basin; those clearances  will take years to obtain and they have delayed doing this for years; these are both heavy burdens;

6. Finally, under the 2d/updated funding plan requirements they must show that the project will be successful financially and in other respects; actually the financial situation on funding, the increased costs, the lack of private investors, the likelihood  of government subsidies (forbidden by 1A) have all deteriorated in the last 2 years, making the prospects for success very remote; this project , state -wide, will cost well above $100 billion, and currently they have 6% of that available with no prospects for significant further financial help from the federal government or from private investors. Californians will bear this enormous cost by themselves and alone.  This was never intended and is a bleak prospect.

7. Therefore, we look forward to litigating these further issues where the burdens on the Authority to meet the requirements of 1A are even heavier;

8. We are also evaluating the possibility of going to the Supreme Court on issues such as respect for the protection of the voters in the initiative process when measures were specifically enacted for their protection and are then brushed aside, contrary to the intent of the initiative.

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