AB-1889 (Mullin) – Caltrain sponsored legislation to take funds from High Speed Rail

Morris Brown
Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail Project

In the last hour of the Legislative session on Aug 31, final approval was given to AB-1889, which was dispatched to the Governor for his hoped for signature.

Pushed though with Democratic caucus support, this bill takes $600 million in funding from the voter approved Prop 1A High Speed Rail bond act and will partially fund the Caltrain modernization project. In the future it would enable more funding to be used to fund any number of regional rail projects.

The bill started out as a “gut and amend” special in late June. It then was heard in the Senate’s Transportation and Housing committee, chaired by Senator Beall. There Beall suppressed a letter of opposition and refused to even allow opposition speakers to talk. Unexpectedly, committee member, Senator Cathleen Galgiani, a Democrat, and the Author of Prop 1A back in 2008, strenuously objected to the bill, but it passed through the committee anyway.

A bit of time passed, and the bill was amended to not only allow Caltrain funding, but also perhaps allow funding elsewhere, perhaps even in Senator Galgiani’s district. Suddenly on the Senate floor, she was no longer objecting to the bill, but became the floor manger of the bill, touting it virtues. No longer does she care that taking money from High Speed Rail spells doom for HSR construction. Also noted were Senators Beall and Leno, now co-authors, pushing hard for its passage.

The bill moved to the Assembly on the very last day of the legislative session, suspending all sorts of rules. The Transportation committee Chaired by Jim Frazier, finally prepared a “fair” analysis of the bill, and held a hearing on the bill, but in a room without video and without any notice being given to the public. Chair Frazier, to his credit, did finally allow opposition to be heard. Chair Frazier did support the bill with reservations, urging Mullin in the future to be careful.

The bill is blatantly unconstitutional. The bill amends the voter approved Prop 1A bond measure, which has constitutional protection from amendments, unless such amendments are also passed by the voters.

On the Assembly floor, Assemblymen David Hadley and Jim Patterson strongly urged NO votes. Two democrats did vote No and two Democrats abstained, but it passed easily on a 48 Yes to 30 No margin. The bill had the Democrat’s caucus support and in this day of almost one party rule, bills needing only a simple majority to pass, having the support of the caucus, will pass.

Will Governor Brown sign? This is indeed an anti-HSR bill. High Speed Rail is around $50 billion or more short of funding for the phase one completion, and no further Federal or private funding is on the horizon. If the Governor signs, it is a sure indication that he has “given up” on High Speed Rail, and will in the future, he will support using Prop 1A funds to build regional projects.

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