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Initiatives Target Bullet Train, Water Use, ADA Lawsuits

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Sacramento, CA – New initiatives aim at derailing Governor Jerry Brown’s high-speed bullet train, prioritizing state water use and reducing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits.

According to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the High-Speed Rail No Issuance Or Sale Of Future Bonds, Suspension Of Project Initiative Statute seeks to suspend the project — except for a general funds feasibility study — and would shut down already voter-approved funding for it.

The state analyst and director of finance estimate fiscal impacts to include about $700 million annually in debt-service costs, depending on the actual reduction in related bond funds spent. However, it does not detail other potential impacts; such as loss of federal funds and changes in spending if the state continues with a future bullet train project. The proponents of the measure as 29th District Republican Senator Robert Huff and 1st District Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner.

Huff and Runner are also leads for the Water Bond Reallocation Of Bond Authority To Water Storage Projects Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. If it makes the ballot and is approved by state voters, the legislation would formally prioritize domestic water use over irrigation use and redirect up to $10.7 billion in unused bond funds: $8 billion of which, as previously described above, would come from the high-speed rail project. The balance of $2.7 billion would be pulled from monies presently allocated for water storage projects that must also benefit the environment, although the initiative would remove that requirement. These funds would then be used to seed a new State Water and Groundwater Storage Facilities Authority, charged with making related project funding decisions. While the reallocation of bonds are not anticipated to significantly impact the state’s anticipated debt payments, other potential state and local fiscal effects are unknown.

Under the Disability Access Litigation Initiative Statute, before suing for construction-related accessibility violations, persons with disabilities would be required to provide 120 days of notice – similar to that of other lawsuits — to property owners or businesses, and would further bar the suit, if the alleged violations are corrected within that time period. Estimated state and local fiscal impacts include a potential reduction of a few million dollars annually in state court costs related to civil claims. Spearheading the measure is San Diego attorney Andrew K. Rauch.

Before July 25, in order for these proposed measures to qualify for the November ballot, the proponents of the high-speed rail suspension and disability access litigation initiatives must collect nearly 367,000 registered voters’ signatures, which is five percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. The water use initiative, amendment and statute will require over 585,000 such signatures, representing eight percent of the total vote.