California Bar Journal
CBJ - November 2008 #01.
Governor signs $5 billion bond measure to repair courthouses
California Bar Journal November 2008 Governor signs $5 billion bond measure to repair courthouses By Nancy McCarthyStaff WriterIn a move that is expected to generate jobs and improve some of the state's crumbling infrastructure, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a measure to provide $5 billion in lease-revenue bond funds that will finance new construction and renovation of California court facilities. Chief Justice Ronald George, who has long lamented the sometimes unsafe and often inadequate condition of courthouses, said he was delighted.
"Senate Bill 1407 is a major step forward that will help ensure the safety and security of our courthouses for all Californians, including litigants, jurors, employees and other members of the public," he said.
Court officials believe plans to bring courthouses up to speed will be the largest capital project in any state court system in the country.
It also marks the third and final installment of George's ambitious three-part reform of California's judicial system, along with trial court unification and trial court funding.
The bonds will be supported by new fees and fines that take effect Jan. 1, meaning the construction will be financed by court users rather than the state's general fund. Although the governor favored issuing general obligation bonds to renovate court facilities, he won little support because they must be repaid with general fund money. Lease-revenue bonds are supported by a revenue stream and have the added advantage of not requiring voter approval.
Schwarzenegger said signing the bill reinforced his commitment to improving the state's infrastructure while stimulating the economy. He noted the Judicial Council estimates the measure will generate tens of thousands of jobs statewide and billions of dollars in construction-related goods and services.
"Building California's infrastructure is one of my highest priorities," he said. "Improving our state's aging court facilities has been an integral part of my promise to Californians to rebuild our infrastructure and increase public safety."
California has 451 trial court facilities and the Judicial Council has identified 68 as having either "critical or immediate" needs. In addition to safety issues...