Mathis bill calls for strict oversight of high-speed rail

AB 2249 would create an oversight committee requiring High Speed Rail Authority to submit monthly reports on contracts, change orders and any other documentation they request

The Sun-Gazette

SACRAMENTO – California’s high-speed rail project has more than doubled its timeline and its cost to completion. And that’s by the High-Speed Rail Authority’s own admission nearly two years ago. Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) says the money being spent on high-speed rail each day could easily fix most of the major roadways needing to repair throughout the Valley. 

“In its most recent report, the authority stated that it is budgeted to spend roughly $6.2 million a day. These funds are not adequately justified, nor is there corroborating evidence that the money was even spent on what is being reported. The roads throughout the Central Valley are crumbling. Imagine what we could do to improve the lives of our constituents if we spent $6.2 million a day on them, rather than a train to nowhere.”

Earlier this month, Mathis introduced Assembly Bill 2249. Called The High-Speed Rail Authority Accountability Act, the measure would require strict legislative oversight of the High-Speed Rail Authority. The California High-Speed Rail Act created the authority to develop and implement a high-speed rail system in the state. Every two years, the authority is required to provide a project update report to the legislature on the development and implementation of the project. However, there is no statute outlining the specific information that must be furnished to the Legislature for review. 

“AB 2249 is a fair and balanced solution to an unchecked agency,” Mathis said. 

If passed, the bill would create the Joint Legislative Committee on High-Speed Rail Oversight consisting of three members of the Senate and three members of the Assembly and would require the committee to ascertain facts, review documents, and take actions necessary to make recommendations to the Legislature concerning the state’s programs, policies, and investments related to high-speed rail. The bill would require the authority and any entity contracting with the authority to give and furnish to the committee upon request information, records, and documents as the committee deems necessary and proper to achieve its purposes. 

The bill would also require the authority to submit to the committee a monthly summary and description of new contracts, change orders or amendments to any existing contract, lease, real property acquisition agreement, or memorandum of understanding.

“The Authority has been operating with carte blanche for far too long,” said Mathis. “Session after session, the Authority comes before the Legislature and presents a shell of a business plan without any validation offered for such enormous cost-overruns. It’s time that we take back the Authority’s autonomy.”

Mathis represents the 26th Assembly District, which includes nearly all of Tulare County as well as parts of Inyo County and eastern Kern County.

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