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railland.jpgThe Joint Legislative Audit Committee declined a request by two Republican lawmakers today to audit how the state is acquiring private land for California's high-speed rail project.

Assemblymen Jim Patterson, of Fresno, and Frank Bigelow, of O'Neals, said they feared Central Valley landowners were being treated unfairly as the California High-Speed Rail Authority moves to acquire land for the project.

Their request failed on a party-line vote. Democratic lawmakers said an audit is unnecessary because information about land acquisition can be obtained directly from the rail authority.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said an audit would have taken about six months. The state auditor has examined elements of the high-speed rail project twice before, first in 2010 and again in 2012.

Rail officials plan to begin construction of the $68 billion system in the Central Valley this year. The project has been a source of controversy at the Capitol for years, and opponents are seeking to block its construction in court.

PHOTO: Fresno Inn residents, given a 3-day eviction notice, say they are being told by the landlord that the property will be demolished to make way for high-speed rail, on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. The Fresno Bee/John Walker



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