Monday, January 11, 2010

Legality of Using The Ordinance Feature Of A Referendum In Question

By definition ordinances are laws enacted by a municipal body that are not already covered by state or federal laws.

Since the Municipal Authorities Act of 2001 provides for the right of a municipality to takeover an authority's assets it would appear that a referendum to create a law that would prevent the sale of the assets of the water department of the Hazleton City Authority would contravene that law. Keep in mind that Hazleton City Council has yet to adopt a resolution or ordinance authorizing the sale of those assets therefore a referendum even if applicable would, at this point, seem premature. Any law enacted by referendum to supercede those powers granted by state law may end up being invalid.

In the case of Erie cited in the Referendum Handbook the voters stopped Erie from selling its water company to an authority. If one looks closely that sale is not covered under any state law per se. Therefore its application in this case is slightly different. Takeover of authority assets are covered by the Municipal Authorities Act, therefore, a signifcant legal question remains whether the referendum mechanism is a viable remedy for those opposed to the sale.

The bigger probelm comes from the opposition itself. Certain persons are self-proclaimed governement watchdogs, yet they want to use the Authority's solicitor as their own private attorney. Those in opposition need to seek outside counsel and prove that they are on legal ground, not just copy and paste something from the referendum handbook to validate their claims.


Grace Cuozzo said...

We used water rate monies to pay DCED a few years ago. Was that OK? It was for the industrial division of the HCA. Hey you don't like my request to the HCA for their financial assistance in running a legal notice and having their lawyer review the ordinance, too bad. I have paid into the HCA for over 30 years and I would like to keep the water rates at a fair price. Once taken over by a for profit company that is exactly what they will do run a FOR PROFIT COMPANY! The authority is bound by state laws not allowing them to charge rates in which they make a profit, once out of the shelter of a municipal authority we are all screwed!

McGruff said...

Grace my dear Grace,

The HCA made $1.8 million profit last year on $8.2 million in sales. Non profit doesn't mean no profit. There is NO STATE LAW covering the water rates charged by HCA per se. They are free to charge what they want. As a matter of fact the board proposed raising rates as one of the solutions to try to help Hazleton.

The PUC does NOT govern the HCA. If they raise rates that you feel are out of line your only recourse undere state law is to challenge their increase in Luzerne County court. You are a crusader so tell me how people who don't have the financial backing have the ability to take them to court.

Obviously your understanding of the law needs to be corrected. If you don't believe me ask the HCA.

Grace I have shown that while your water rates may go up your property taxes will go up 10 times as much if you don't support the Mayor's plan.

No one should sign any petition unless they have a plan to solve Hazleton's financial crisis. It's one thing to oppose; its another to oppose with no solution.