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In re QSA Cases

ELR Citation: 40 ELR 20020
Nos. No. JC4353, (Cal. Super. Ct., 01/13/2010)

A California court voided an agreement between California and the four major Southern California water agencies (Metropolitan Water District, Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District, and San Diego County Water Authority) concerning the allocation of water from the Colorado River. The agreement, under which California must pick up the tab for any mitigation costs exceeding the capped contribution of the other parties, violates the California Constitution. The mitigation costs, while contingent, are projected to cost well in excess of the constitutional debt limit, but the obligation is not conditioned upon an appropriation by the state legislature. It therefore contractually binds future legislators' hands in contravention of the state constitution. Were the court to validate the agreement, executive agencies of the state would be able to contract for amounts well over the constitutional debt limit where some amount is contingent but everyone knows there is a very real possibility that the debt limit amount will be exceeded by simply adding language saying the obligation is an "unconditional contractual obligation of the state not conditioned upon an appropriation by the legislature." The court, however, stayed the effectiveness of the judgment until the deadline to file a notice of appeal expires.