In 2008, California voters approved Measure R by an overwhelming two-thirds majority. Measure R called for a half-cent sales tax for Los Angeles County to finance new transportation projects and to accelerate the plans for public transportation that were already in the works. The tax took effect in July 2009 and, according to the measure, was supposed to expire in 2039.
However, on January 4, 2012, Assemblyman Michael Feuer (D-Los Angeles), the author of Measure R, introduced AB 1446, which proposed to extend Measure R for an additional, unspecified period of time. If AB 1446 passed, it would enable Metro to bond against future Measure R proceeds and to build certain transit projects sooner than Metro originally contemplated without relying on federal or state funding.
Feuer also introduced AB 1444, which proposes to expedite judicial review of challenges to Metro’s projects brought under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Through AB 1444, Metro transportation projects would be considered “leadership projects” under Feuer's Jobs and Economic Improvement Through Environmental Leadership Act of 2011 (the “Act”). This Act fast-tracks the CEQA review of “leadership projects” that are related to the development of residential, retail, commercial, sports, cultural, entertainment, or recreational use projects, or clean renewable energy/clean energy manufacturing projects. “Leadership projects” are still subject to public review and comment, although their CEQA reviews are heard on an expedited basis in the California Appellate Court system.
AB 1444 would especially impact certain controversial transit projects in the works: the LAX-Crenshaw Line, the Gold Line extension, and the Westside subway, all of which are the subject of threatened or pending lawsuits.
On June 28th, Metro will decide if AB 1446 and 1444 will be added to the ballot for the November election. Just like in 2008, if added to the ballot, these measures must pass with a two-thirds majority.