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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ind. Decisions - This completes the set of briefs in the toll road case

This complete the set of briefs. The ILB is pleased to be able to post the second amicus brief, that of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT), in the toll road suit, Bonney v. IFA. This makes a total of five briefs -- access the others via this ILB entry (Prof. Tanford brief), here are the entires containing appellees' briefs, and here is the entry linking to the appellants' brief.

A sample from the IACT brief. The IACT brief argues at pp. 8 and 9 that in the interests of "finality" "governments must be able to move on with their projects and programs in an expedited fashion because indeed, once the public has spoken, actions must be undertaken promptly to save the general public money and implement governmental policies." It states that it is "common for appointed municipal bodies created by statute to take action after hearing from municipal residents, just as the IFA, also a creature of statute, took action after a public hearing in the instant situation." The brief also cites the doctrine of laches as playing a part here.

The brief continues: "The notion that every legislative action can be subject to scrutiny by individual citizens with the wherewithal to finance a lawsuit is inconsistent with the premises on which our system of government is founded." Instead, the ultimate remedy is the ballot box. "If the Appellants in this case believe that Major Moves is unwise or is otherwise flawed, their opportunity for redress is in the next legislative and gubernatorial elections, not by asking our judiciary to substitute its judgment for that of the legislature."

Really.

Prior ILB entries on the toll road issue. Click here for a list of all previous ILB entries referencing the toll road.

Washington Post story. Here is a link to yesterday's Post story, headlined "Strapped States Try New Route, Lease Toll Roads to Foreign Firms." Here is how the article concludes:

The proposal stirred up one of the biggest fights the Indiana legislature had ever seen, with rallies and expensive media campaigns on both sides, and the governor unable to change minds at jammed town hall meetings in communities along the toll road where opposition was most fierce.

"Never in my legislative career will I ever again be faced with a [bill] quite like this," said the chief sponsor, state Rep. Randy Borror (R) of Fort Wayne, who walked the statehouse with thick notebooks filled with figures showing how much transportation money each legislator's district would get from the plan.

The winning bidders were Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Sydney, the same firm that controls the Dulles Greenway, and Cintra Concesiones de Infrastructures de Transporte S.A. of Madrid. Under the lease, the companies got the right to raise tolls -- which have not been increased in two decades -- for cars and trucks right away, and eventually to keep pace annually with inflation. The 103-page lease spells out the companies' responsibilities in meticulous detail, including clearing snow and road kill within specified times, and granting state police the right to patrol.

Steve Allen, Macquarie's chief executive, said the company, which operates toll roads in nine countries, has an incentive to improve the highways to attract more drivers. Since it took over the Chicago Skyway, he said, the company has built electronic toll booths sooner than required and made lane changes that reduce backups.

Indiana legislators were not reassured. Daniels and his allies made big compromises: extra money for each county along the toll road, a postponement of higher rates for cars until electronic tolls are installed, job-training money for economically depressed Gary. Even so, the plan passed the state House by one vote.

Three months after the legislation squeaked through, feelings remain raw.

"The whole thing stinks," said state Rep. B. Patrick Bauer, the House Democratic leader. The two companies, he said, "got a heck of an unbelievable deal. We got a bad deal."

Daniels's approval ratings have plummeted, from about 50 percent early last winter to 37 percent in the most recent polls. Borror said the issue "complicates the election" for state legislators in November.

"There are going to be a lot of states that fail at this," Borror said, "because they underestimate the amount of work it takes to get this bill passed." Even so, Daniels said, "I don't believe we'll ever [again] be able to do any one thing that will be as transformative and positive for the future of this state."

A shortened version of the Post story appears in today's Sidney Morning Herald.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 15, 2006 08:49 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions