A Sacramento superior court judge will now decide whether 2012's approval of California's high speed train project effectively bars anyone -- even him -- from stopping the project in its tracks.
Almost three months after ruling that California's high-speed rail authority had violated specific requirements in the 2008 bond measure approving seed money for the project, Judge Michael Kenny on Friday heard arguments from both sides on the appropriate punishment.
"We think the authority is in a hole," said Stuart Flashman, attorney for the train project's opponents that won the first round in court this past summer.
The plaintiffs told the judge in Friday's hearing that state should be barred from spending any of the Proposition 1A bond funds -- once those bonds are actually sold -- in the wake of the ruling that found noncompliance with financial and environmental requirements laid out by the 2008 ballot measure.
But the state's position is, in a nutshell: legislative ratification of the project in 2012 is all that's needed to use bond money.
"The taxpayers are represented through the legislative process," said deputy attorney general Michelle Inan, who also said that even if the court was to cancel parts of the train agency's earlier business plan, things would proceed as planned.
The statute signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 came after an intense legislative debate, and it's unclear just how much authority the bond measure placed in the hands of lawmakers... versus what kind of penalty can be imposed for failing to hit all of the markers laid out in that ballot measure.
Meantime, the rail authority this week approved a change in the future path of the tracks between Fresno and Bakersfield. Agency officials have no firm date on which they expect to begin actual construction, after a scheduled summertime start failed to materialize.