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AG Harris Expresses Opposition to RDA Suit

Attorney General Kamala Harris took the unusual measure of pre-emptively voicing her official opposition to the lawsuit that was filed two weeks ago to overturn the budget bills that force redevelopment agencies to either disband or pay a total of $1.7 billion in "remittances" to the state. The suit was filed by the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities in the state Supreme Court; the petition calls on the court to declare the actions unconstitutional in light of Prop. 22. Though the court has not yet indicated whether it will hear the case or whether it will grant a requested stay Harris staked out her position in the form of an "Informal Opposition" [.pdf, 1.4 MB].

In a brief filed with the court last week, Harris affirms what her office considers to be the state's prerogative to support, or disband, redevelopment agencies according to the 1945 legislation that first gave rise to them.  Her brief supports Gov. Jerry Brown's longstanding contention that, by capturing property tax increment, redevelopment agencies are essentially hoarding funds that are needed in light of the state's fiscal crisis.

To the central question of whether the dissolution of redevelopment would violate Prop. 22, Harris' brief claims that precedent in California is to defer to the Legislature unless an act is expressly prohibited by the constitution, so that "[i]f there is any doubt as to the Legislature's power to act in any given case, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the Legislature's action."

The brief also notes that, while Prop. 22 forbids the direct or indirect transfer of funds from redevelopment agencies to the state, it does not address the Legislature's power to create or dissolve the state's redevelopment system. The brief states, "had the voters intended such a sweeping limitation on the Legislature's power, they certainly could have so indicated in a clearer or more direct fashion."

Harris also interprets the two redevelopment budget bills not as a matched pair but instead as independent pieces of legislation. As such, they do not constitute a "Hobson's choice," which is how the petitioners characterize cities' and counties' options to either disband their agencies or pay a remittance fee. Harris contends that the Legislature first eliminated all redevelopment and then "then offered cities and counties that wanted to continue to pursue redevelopment goals an alternative and voluntary mechanism" in the form of the "Voluntary Alternative Redevelopment Program" enacted by AB1X 27.

Harris opposes the stay requested in the petition. Virtually only point on which she does agree with the petitioners is that the Supreme Court should exercise its original jurisdiction and rule as swiftly as possible. 

--Josh Stephens

 

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