Monday, August 04, 2014

CHSRA funding plan clears court hurdle

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A California appeals court has ruled that the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) can proceed with up to $8 billion in state bond sales for the proposed $68 billion system proposed to span the Golden State.

The ruling by the Third Appellate District Court of Appeals also overturned a lower court ruling that found the state failed to comply with the law in developing a funding plan for the $68 billion line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

CHSRA's court victory may be important from a psychological standpoint as much as a legal one, since varied anti-rail partisans, including individuals and groups, continue to file lawsuits objecting to the project, objecting to various issues that often face new rail projects in the U.S. CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales noted to one Santa Clara Valley News website that anti-rail voices “have been for months now creating a narrative that we would never be able to get to the bonds, that we could never comply with the law." He added, “That continued drumbeat from opponents impacted public opinion.”

CHSRA Chairman Dan Richard said California is "committed to building a modern highspeed rail system that will connect the state, precisely as the voters called for." He said the system "will be a clean, fast, non-subsidized service, and will create jobs and enable smart, sustainable growth while preserving farmland and habitat." Voters approved a measure allowing the state to sell bonds for the project in 2008.

The court, in part, noted on Thursday, July 31, 2014:

"Substantial legal questions loom in the trial court as to whether the high-speed rail project the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) seeks to build is the project approved by the voters in 2008. Substantial financial and environmental questions remain to be answered by the Authority in the final funding plan the voters required for each corridor or usable segment of the project. (Sts. & Hy. Code, § 2704.08, subd. (d).)1 But those questions are not before us in these validation and mandamus proceedings.

"The scope of our decision is quite narrow," the court continued. "Applying time-honored principles of statutory construction, separation of powers, and the availability of extraordinary writ relief, we conclude:

1. Contrary to the trial court's determination, the High-Speed Passenger Train Finance Committee properly found that issuance of bonds for the project was necessary or desirable.

2. The preliminary section 2704.08, subdivision (c) funding plan was intended to provide guidance to the Legislature in acting on the Authority's appropriation request. Because the Legislature appropriated bond proceeds following receipt of the preliminary funding plan approved by the Authority, the preliminary funding plan has served its purpose. A writ of mandamus will not lie to compel the idle act of rescinding and redoing it."

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