Arizona: Federal Judge Overrules Legislature on Transit Subsidies

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Arizona must subsidize those who ride on buses, vans and light rail, regardless of the desire of state lawmakers or voters to do otherwise. US District Court Judge David G. Campbell on Friday overturned a state law enacted in March last year to curtail excessive spending by slashing such subsidies. The legislature canceled the Local Transportation Assistance Fund, which had doled out $127 million in taxpayer cash since 1998 to various mass transit programs using funds from the Powerball lottery.

A group of left-wing activists in Maricopa County filed a “citizens’ lawsuit” under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to get that money back. The federal law allowing such suits also requires certain areas of the country file “state implementation plans” (SIP) outlining what steps they would take to meet stringent air quality standards. These plans must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which allows a narrow set of mitigation strategies that give a high priority to so-called “mass transit” programs, even when these programs do not actually move a large number of people.

For example, Arizona funnels public money into privately run van service companies, counties, municipalities and Indian tribes under the federally authorized Section 5310 mass transit program. The grants provide capital funds for the purchase of vehicles that are used mostly to provide subsidized transport for people over the age of sixty. The University of Arizona received one of these grants through Pima County to buy three golf carts in 2008. Bullhead City offers complimentary paratransit service with 15 percent of its senior citizen passengers boarding at the Laughlin Casino Resort.

“Defendants assert that this lawsuit has no significance to air quality or transit services in the Phoenix area,” Judge Campbell wrote. “But the advisability of requiring lottery funding for transit, or other policy considerations that went into the SIP, are not for this court to decide.”

Campbell’s order effectively nullified House Bill 2012, which had repealed the Local Transportation Assistance Fund. He also ordered the state to provide up to $18 million in funding each year to such programs.

“This circuit has made clear that provisions of an EPA-approved SIP are federally enforceable in district court through the CAA’s citizen suit provision,” Campbell ruled. “Absent prior approval from the EPA, the Arizona legislature lacked authority to repeal the portions of A.R.S. Section 5-522(A) that are included in the SIP, and that the legislature’s attempt to do so therefore is null and void and the lottery funding requirement included in the SIP remains in full force and effect.”

A copy of the ruling is available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below. Pictured: a van purchased by the Apache Junction Parks and Recreation department using LTAF funding.


Paisley v. Darwin (US District Court, Arizona, 9/2/2011)


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  • Contrarian Contrarian on Sep 08, 2011

    So much for the USA being a Democracy. It's become a judgocracy.

  • Chicago Dude Chicago Dude on Sep 08, 2011

    Oh how I loathe those activist judges that don't do what I want them to do! Actually I am being redundant here because they are not activist judges if they do what I want them to do. The EPA was created by Congress and given, by Congress, a set of rules under which it must operate under. The EPA, like all administrative agencies of the United States, has the full authority of Congress under those rules because Congress delegated its authority to the administrative agency. This is a well-established part of the United States government, has been upheld on many occasions by various Supreme Courts that have leaned both left and right, and it has been this way for more than 100 years. If you don't like the rules, you get Congress to change them. You don't create a new law at the state level like Arizona did, because the courts will throw it away. The right solution but the wrong approach. Case closed.

  • Rando [h2]Coincidentally, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more than $41k as well -.-[/h2]
  • Ajla "Gee, wonder why car (as well as home) insurance rates are much higher in places like Florida..." Severe weather is on the list but even if a benevolent genie reverted the climate to circa 1724 I think FL would still have high cost. Our home insurance rates have increased 102% since 2021 and I don't think weather models account for that much of a change in that period. Florida's insurance assignment of benefit regulation meant that it had ~80% of the country's of the insurance lawsuits on ~12% of the nation's claims and litigated claims can be expensive to insurance companies. The state altered some regulations and is having some success on getting more companies back, even with the severe weather risks, through relatively bipartisan efforts. With car insurance just beyond the basic "Florida" stuff, the population increase of the past few years is overwhelming the roads. But, I think the biggest thing is we have very low mandated car insurance levels. Only $10K personal injury and $10K property damage. No injury liability needed. And 20% of the state has no insurance. So people that actually want insurance pay out the nose. Like I commented above my under/uninsured coverage alone is 2.5x my comprehensive & collision.
  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
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