Moderate Democrats Vent Frustrations in Assembly Hearing

Mar 30th, 2016 | Posted by

The Assembly Transportation Committee held hearings on the 2016 Business Plan of the high speed rail project, an event that turned into a forum for moderate Democrats to vent some of their frustrations with California High Speed Rail leaders. But first up were questions about the cap-and-trade funds, rooted in a typically flawed and alarmist anti-HSR report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office:

State Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly told legislators that the California Air Resources Board, which administers cap-and-trade, believes it has the authority to continue the program beyond 2020. “There is no doubt some risk,” Kelly said, referring to a pending appeal over whether the program is an illegal tax or a legitimate fee or charge for state services. The state won in a Superior Court ruling that is now on appeal.

But Jessica Peters, a fiscal and policy specialist with the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, said there is considerable doubt about the future of cap-and-trade. “About half of the (Valley to San Jose) funds would come from cap-and-trade beyond 2020,” she said. “If it does not extend beyond 2020, it would not be available unless the Legislature took action to do that.”

If the state somehow loses this case and cap-and-trade funds end in 2020, it’s safe to say that the legislature will step in and simply restore it. If it has to be done via the ballot box, that’ll happen too – we saw in 2010 that voters strongly support this.

A few other Democrats voiced concerns, including Merced’s Adam Gray:

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, expressed his displeasure that while Merced was the northern terminus of a Merced-Los Angeles operating segment in the 2012 and 2014 versions of the business plan, the shift to a San Jose line leaves the city and its residents sitting and waiting.

“We had no heads-up, no input, no notice of this significant change,” said Gray, who sat in on Monday’shearing as a member of a select committee on high-speed rail. “Merced was always in the initial operating segment. The departure from the northern San Joaquin Valley is a great concern to me.”

Yikes. That was a screwup, as the CHSRA staff at the hearing acknowledged.

Another moderate Democrat, San Bernardino’s Cheryl Brown, said she was “troubled” by the decision to switch to a northern IOS. Brown is facing her own challenge from another Democrat, Eloise Gomez Reyes, who is running against Brown in part due to Brown’s poor record on environmental issues.

Ultimately, the hearing didn’t produce any signs that legislators are turning against high speed rail, despite the faded hopes of HSR critics. It did suggest that the split within the Assembly Democrats, between moderates and progressives, may have some role to play in shaping exactly what HSR’s future looks like. But that story hasn’t yet played out, and likely won’t for some time.

  1. Aarond
    Mar 30th, 2016 at 22:25

    “It did suggest that the split within the Assembly Democrats, between moderates and progressives, may have some role to play in shaping exactly what HSR’s future looks like”

    Which is what exactly? Prop 1A requires a 200 mph system between the TTC and LAUS. The only question is if it’ll be delivered in 2020 or 2030.

    Zorro Reply:

    200 mph minimum? Prop1a/AB3034 does say 200 mph and 220 mph, but the words ‘minimum’ and ‘maximum’ are not there in relation to 200 mph and/or 220 mph.

    Some just assume 200 mph is the minimum speed, which is silly, since instant acceleration to 200 mph is impossible, at least with any known technology.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If you study California politics, you would know for a long time the supermajority (2/3rds) requirement to the pass the state budget was the primary tool Republicans used to cripple Democrats’s progressive goals and perpetuate gridlock in Sacramento.

    Even though that rule has since been repealed, it also contributed to the decline of the Republican Party in California. Always playing defense, encouraged the CAGOP to support legislative redistricting that protected a few safe seats as opposed to a bunch of competitive ones. That opened the door to the Democrats representing lots of seats which are far (ideologically, economically, geographically…) from the Democrats’ liberal bastions on the coasts.

    Since the Democrats need these inland seats to retain a solid majority in the Legislature, they haveto always draw what happens in Sacramento to more jobs and a higher standard of living there (which often is in short supply).

    In addition, because of the current “North gets the train, South gets the tunnels” compromise, some of these inland districts now are going to have little to show from both HSR and the water bond. But the alternative, as demonstrated by the last four years, didn’t exactly produce much in the way of results either…hence the criticism being largely in sotto voce….

    J. Wong Reply:

    You missed another major cause of the CAGOP losing: Open primaries. Since the primaries are open, it no longer benefits Republicans to run as far right as they can (nor Democrats to run as progressive). The result is more moderates.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Open primaries violate my (and your) right to freedom of assembly.

  2. JimInPollockPines
    Mar 30th, 2016 at 23:27

    The democrats should be concerned – 8 years with little to show for it, it gets harder to defend to constituents. As for Merced they should be included in this iOS north they’ve been supportive and they desperately need whatever jobs would be created
    As for the shift to iOS north SoCal should be glad the authority is just crying to get something running as soon as possible before population gives up on it

    Aarond Reply:

    As long as Sacramento remains blue HSR is still a go.

    Jerry Reply:

    Decide on the Wye and go to Merced.

    Joe Reply:

    Jim, I agree that Merced should be added for the incremental cost as well as Bakersfield to the South. For the cost, there is great benefit.

    Sadly, The Authority doesn’t print money. They don’t make the rules either. The Autbrotiy has a budget and set of ridiculous constraints all complements of the State Legislature.

    Looks like strict, tight fisted policies produce less optimal results.

    I suggest Merced reps produce a better, non subsidized system for the same money in hand. If they want it all the the Leglislature needs to pay for it. Cut the check.

    Zorro Reply:

    SB3 was passed today and Gov Brown is going to sign the bill on Monday, California will by 2022 have $15 an hours as the minimum wage, there are other details Here. So I wouldn’t say nothing got done…

  3. agb5
    Mar 30th, 2016 at 23:41

    Why does the Legislature not act now to extend cap-and-trade?

    The law requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas does not expire in 2020, so if Cap & Trade expires some other mechanism must be created to replace it which will take money from polluters.

    morris brown Reply:

    agb5 wrote:

    Why does the Legislature not act now to extend cap-and-trade?

    The law requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas does not expire in 2020, so if Cap & Trade expires some other mechanism must be created to replace it which will take money from polluters.

    Yes, indeed this is the key.

    The LAO flat out stated in the March 28th hearing that the Cap and Trade revenues expire in 2020. Robert just wants to ignore this bi-partisan office. So do Chair Richard and and Brian Kelly.

    But the LA has done some homework.

    Look at:

    LAO Report on Cap and Trade revenues

    page 7, where you read:

    We note that, without new legislation, there is
    some legal uncertainty regarding ARB’s authority
    to: (1) enforce regulations to achieve more stringent
    post-2020 GHG targets and (2) extend the cap-and-
    trade program beyond 2020. According to ARB,
    AB 32 provides the authority to do both. However,
    based on our informal discussions with Legislative
    Counsel, it appears unlikely that AB 32 provides
    such authority.
    Although AB 32 states the intent of
    the Legislature that the statewide GHG emissions
    limit remain in existence
    and be used to “maintain
    and continue” reductions
    in emissions beyond 2020,

    So the LAO opinion is backed up by the State’s Legislative Counsel. It certainly appears the ARB is claiming powers they don’t have.

    Now last year, an attempt was made to extend Cap and Trade beyond 2020, via SB-32, which passed in the Senate but was 3 votes short in the Assembly. (this was based on a simple majority needed to pass, not even trying for a 2/3 vote, which many believe is necessary.

    Joe Reply:

    Once again opponents think they run the show.

    The LAO works for the Legislature. The LAO doesn’t don’t decide squat. Recall they questioned the legality of cap and trade for HSR and – FAIL. Not their expertise to advise on law. The AG’s job and she backed the cap and trade funding.

    De facto, the Leglislatire decides. They have not yet decided to extend cap and trade.

    They have power over the ARB and the HSR Authority.

    joe Reply:

    According to ARB,
    AB 32 provides the authority to do both. However,
    based on our informal discussions with Legislative
    Counsel, it appears
    unlikely that AB 32 provides
    such authority.

    Legislative Counsel didn’t opine. The opinion was the LAO’s. The LAO had a vague discussion with the Legislative Counsel, it was informal, and based on that discussion the LAO says it “appears”.

    LAO had a opinion before in 2014-2015 and they were still wrong.
    Based on an opinion that we received from Legislative Counsel, the revenues generated from ARB’s cap–and–trade auctions are considered “mitigation fee” revenues. Thus, the use of these revenues are subject to certain legal criteria. Specifically, we are advised that their use is subject to the so–called Sinclair nexus test. This test requires that a clear nexus must exist between an activity for which a mitigation fee is used and the adverse effects related to the activity on which that fee is levied. Given this legal requirement, the administration’s proposal to fund activities (such as high–speed rail) could be legally risky. While the high–speed rail project could eventually help reduce GHG emissions somewhat in the very long run, it would not help achieve AB 32’s primary goal of reducing GHG emissions by 2020.

    Informal Discussion. Aka B.S.

    StevieB Reply:

    SB 32 was held up by demands from Assembly Democrats that the authority of the California Air Resources Board be reduced, subjecting its every action to legislative approval. The governor and Senate leaders refused to give on that point. Cap and Trade will be extended before 2020. Meanwhile the LAO will expound on the possible uncertainty.

    Zorro Reply:

    SB32/AB32 will be extended to 2030, of course the bill has been amended 6 times so far. And so that’s why nothing has happened since 9/10/2015.

    Zorro Reply:

    The bill SB32 only requires a simple majority to pass, not a super majority, since SB32 does not make an appropriation, like say for example a bill like AB1584 will.

    morris brown Reply:

    So now I am thinking about Cap and Trade beyond 2020, and what a big deal this is as expressed at the hearing. The LAO after consulting with the Legislative Counsel, says Cap and Trade ceases after 2020. New legislation will be needed to extend beyond 2020.

    The ARB says not so. (what do you except them to say — they want to rule the world). Director Rossi says the law is clear, revenues cease after 2020.

    Yet, Chair Richard, Brian Kelly says revenues continue.

    Attempt to extend via SB-32 last year failed.

    But why isn’t Chair Richard doing more than just rambling. He has the services of the AG. Why doesn’t he ask for a ruling from the AG, and when it agrees with him, publish the ruling.

    Pretty obvious to me. He has consulted with the AG, and gotten bad news. Of course he won’t reveal the ruling.

    The whole project rests on Cap and Trade revenues, yet that funding source, just like more Fed funding, or Private Equity may well not be available.

  4. trentbridge
    Mar 31st, 2016 at 07:18

    The movement to pass legislation to extend “cap and trade” will happen in 2019 at the earliest. The whole “cap and trade” debate is a fertile source of re-election funds for politicians – from environmentalists to oil companies. There’s no need to kill this cash cow now….

  5. datacruncher
    Mar 31st, 2016 at 10:30

    The Bakersfield City Council last night approved a letter opposing the proposed temporary station north of Shafter.

    Draft of letter approved last night
    (and its attached map)
    Staff report

    datacruncher Reply:

    Media Coverage

    Calling bullet train a sham, fraud, City Council goes on record against interim station near Shafter

    A united Bakersfield City Council let the state agency in charge of California’s $64 billion bullet train know on no uncertain terms Wednesday it’s not happy with a proposal to build an interim station on farm land north of Shafter.

    Admitting the California High Speed Rail Authority would likely pay it no attention, the City Council still voted 7-0 to approve comments opposing the Poplar Avenue interim station northwest of Shafter and to authorize City Manager Alan Tandy to make the agency aware of Bakersfield’s displeasure.

    City officials believe Bakersfield needs to go on record opposing the interim station that is mentioned in the CHSRA’s draft 2016 business plan, Community Development Director Doug McIsaac told the council.

    McIsaac said Bakersfield believes the CHSRA’s plans to build from San Jose to north of Shafter would delay service to Bakersfield and the corresponding economic boost from 2025 to 2029, as well as eliminating a proposed heavy maintenance facility site in Shafter from consideration.

    “It just smacks of politics, because Bakersfield is the best place to put an HMF,” said Councilman Chris Parlier.


    The interim Poplar Avenue station, McIsaac said, would be a “wasted investment,” and fail to comply with state Proposition 1A because it would neither check urban sprawl nor connect to other forms of transit.

    It is “directly contrary to a number of planning and environmental objectives that the high-speed rail agency is trying to achieve,” including greenhouse gas reduction, McIsaac added, summarizing the city’s comment letter.

    If the train does stop north of Shafter, he said, it could be brought into Bakersfield on Burlington Northern Santa Fe-Amtrak tracks, using either clean diesel or electric engines.


    “I agree 100 percent with everything that is written there,” said downtown Councilman Terry Maxwell. “San Francisco is a lot more important to them than Bakersfield is, but I’m going to be a realist and guess that our efforts will be falling on deaf ears.”

    Vice Mayor Harold Hanson observed he and Mayor Harvey L. Hall “will be out at Greenlawn Memorial” Park, a cemetery, by the time the train is operational, getting a chuckle from the audience. But he also called the train “a sham.”

    “We should have 10 million people up there telling (Governor) Jerry Brown to take it and drop it in the ocean,” Hanson said. “High-speed rail is a fraud.”


    More at

    datacruncher Reply:

    More coverage

    City sends letter of opposition to High-Speed Rail Authority

    The City of Bakersfield is getting ready to send a letter of opposition to the High-Speed Rail Authority.

    This after officials decided to place a station near Shafer – delaying the station in downtown Bakersfield.

    “High-Speed Rail is a fraud,” said Vice Mayor, Harold Hanson.

    The City Council expressing strong opinions Wednesday night when talking about the HSRA.

    “I think we need to get on board and really raise up against this thing,” said Hanson.

    The city is against a new draft to the 2016 business plan the HSRA released in February.


    “High-Speed Rail all along said they wanted a heavy-maintenance facility more or less in the center of the line. But if you shift that center, and it now ends at poplar, that puts a heavy-maintenance facility probably in Fresno,” said Ward 7 councilmember, Chris Parlier.


    More at

    Joe Reply:

    Kern County and Bakersfild think after years of opposition, stonewalling and complaints, they earned the high speed maintenance facility.

    Now a letter against the project.

    I would be lobbying my local pols, one is the majority leader of the house, to bring the 2-3B in a lame duck session and tie ithat money to the maintenance facility location.

    Zorro Reply:

    I think it’s $2.9 Bn, not $2.3 Bn, but otherwise I agree, the money could come from the surplus, since it’s a one time appropriation, of course one would need enough Republicans in the Assembly and in the State Senate to go along with helping HSR, somehow I doubt that will happen, Democrats need to regain 2/3rds control of both houses to do this.

    Travis D Reply:

    Idiots. If they want the whole thing built they need to work to come up with the money.

    agb5 Reply:

    If the temporary station is built it will probably be just a narrow raised platform that fits within the 100 foot wide right of way, no taking of farmland required, except for a temporary parking lot which could easily be returned to farmland.

    Their argument that people driving to the temporary station will create more air pollution [than if they drove all the way to San Jose] is lame.

  6. synonymouse
    Mar 31st, 2016 at 10:57

    WMATA is talking up the possibility of a shutdown involving months not days. Just goes to show you need alternatives to 3rd rail subway metros like BART, WMATA and MARTA, etc.

    Alternatives like S-bahn, light rail, and bus lanes. This is a solid argument for a second bay transit crossing instead of a tube, and yes of course, with bike lanes.

    If BART were to shut down for a lengthy period why not progressively re-gauge as well?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …it is an election year…

    Bdawe Reply:

    mostly it goes to show that you need things to be not as incompetently managed as WMATA

    EJ Reply:

    Or that when your city’s budget is managed by the US congress, you need to be dramatic to get attention.

    EJ Reply:

    What is the ROI on regauging BART?

    synonymouse Reply:

    A smart move over the long run; otherwise SMART should start fabricating its own equipment and spare parts. Or laying in a much larger inventory than standard gauge ops.

    EJ Reply:

    So, no answer, as usual?

  7. JimInPollockPines
    Mar 31st, 2016 at 12:05

    first ask socal leaders in LA OC and IE to come up with their preferred routes per their constituents. That will take a while but it will keep them involved. Then add the wye, merced and the HMF at Castle, to phase one. That gives supporters something back, and helps put the norcal unified service in place as planned giving northern california a very good network to build on.

    then tell kern county to decide on a route and station location and gin up some public support from their people, and once they do that, proceed into town.

    Joe Reply:

    The Modus Operandi in CA is to hold a public project hostage, run up costs and extract concessions. That was exactly what was happening in So-Cal.

    Danny Reply:

    exactly–fortunately there’s a brewing pushback against all the histrionics they’ve usually used to hold up the projects as you describe

    SoCal’s clown car of Westwood-funded bucket drummers, grandstanding councilmen, videos of students being blown up by the Purple Line, Santa Monicans saying “Rosa can take the bus,” and the whole stratum of perennially panicked pecksniffs will lose its influence altogether

    transit is becoming part of LA life beyond core commuters: Expo’ll lance that West LA traffic boil on May 20, and soon enough everyone will forget what the two decades of screaming hysterical fuss was all about and focus on better service; even Deep Red South OC wants Electrolink

    and more importantly the courts are getting wise: now the nouveaux riches can’t dump millions into barratry to bleed Metro like they did with the Orange Line’s famous $2M month, to make appeal after appeal to delay a project as long as possible

    keith saggers Reply:

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority has given a green light to a $154.2 million extension of its first construction contract in the San Joaquin Valley, stretching the line northward by almost 3 miles in Madera County.
    Scott Jarvis, the authority’s chief engineer, said extending the construction segment “advances the work towards Merced on an environmentally cleared section and provides the capability for a more logical connection and transfer point near an existing Amtrak station.”

    Read more here:

    keith saggers Reply:

    Richard and Jeff Morales, the rail agency’s CEO, expressed regret for failing to advise Merced leaders ahead of time. But they attributed Merced’s circumstance to the constraints the authority is facing in lining up its construction contracts – including a gap in environmental clearances in the Chowchilla area that prevented them from contracting for construction between Madera and Merced

    Read more here:

  8. synonymouse
    Mar 31st, 2016 at 17:40

    Very enjoyable video of the Gold Line:

    Two impressions off the top. LA smog is not as bad as it used to be and Kinkisharyu prefers sliding doors, even on what are essentially big streetcars. You have to wonder about the advisability of BART’s plug doors. BART trains have a lotta doors. All is takes is one to lock up.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And the new LACMTA cars are more attractive than SMART’s doodlebugs. Even with the utilitarian side panel look.

    Faber Castell Reply:

    For the record, they’re both ugly.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Perhaps LACMTA was looking for a no-nonsense “heavy” interurban look, like the PE cars.

    Anandakos Reply:

    It REALLY has improved. Most days in the winter all the mountains are quite visible. It makes it obvious why people settled in the Basin.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Who moved to L.A. for the sweeping mountain vistas?

  9. JimInPollockPines
    Mar 31st, 2016 at 19:01

    Viaduct pics

  10. JimInPollockPines
    Mar 31st, 2016 at 19:03
  11. StevieB
    Mar 31st, 2016 at 21:06

    Accommodating CA High-Speed Rail at LAUS can be accomplished by squeezing in another platform on the concourse. The Gold Line platform would remain in place. Platforms 4 through 7 have three tracks between each. Removal of three tracks between these platform which will be rebuilt for the SCRIP project allows room to construct an additional platform. This plan was outlined by the manager of the SCRIP project at the Union Station Master Plan Program EIR scoping meeting on March 31. Platforms would be taken out of service for SCRIP and new underground concourse construction one at a time and it is estimated to take five years to build.

    Joey Reply:

    There’s actually room for another platform to the east – one track is already in place and another can fit under the edge of the dome of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza – it appears to have been built with this in mind. Though this would involve eliminating the fire lane that’s there currently. Many of the Union Station plans I’ve seen involve demolishing the dome anyway.

    Honestly I’d rather see the extra space used for wider platforms – 6 platforms with 12 platform tracks should be plenty for the modest (by global standards) number of trains that will be using the station.

    StevieB Reply:

    Removing 3 tracks will allow 45 feet to build wider platforms as well as squeeze in an additional platform. I believe current platforms are 21 feet wide. This plan leaves the dome in place while constructing run through tracks for two high boarding high-speed rail platforms and three low boarding platforms. The platforms intended for high-speed rail at the west end of the concourse will be initially built as low boarding and used as the first run through tracks at LAUS. The platform at the east side of the station will remain a stub.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Wider platform and access ramps essential

    Roland Reply:

    Don’t forget to raise the platforms to 4 feet and make sure that all the other trains trash their toilets and half of their seats to make room for another set of doors. The complete spec is here:

    Joey Reply:

    Still bitter about the less-than-ideal-but-best-available solution?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …and the point of that is?

    You still have to use the underground mezzanine to go to a separate platform. And if so, all SCRIP could offer is HSR borrowing new run through tracks, which I think is way too restrictive operationally.

    My vote is to (knowing full well this would be immensely expensive), is to integrate the mezzanine with the Red Line Station below, and put the HSR train box below the subway. But that presumes that Surfliner and long distance Amtrak routes would justify the current number of tracks when Metrolink fades away eventually.

    Joey Reply:

    Two short level changes are a lot faster than one short level change and then a very long level change into a deep cavern.

  12. synonymouse
    Apr 2nd, 2016 at 10:56

    Is moderate Democrat a euphemism for moderate Republican?

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