CALIFORNIA – A bill authored by Senator Ted Gaines, (R-Rocklin), to repeal the $150 rural fire fee being assessed against some Californians, failed to make it out of committee on Tuesday, defeated by a 4-3 vote in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) encouraged people to come out and show their support of the bill, and though they reportedly packed the hearing room, their appeals were unsuccessful.The $150 fee for property owners living in State Responsibility Areas, was approved by lawmakers in 2011 by a simple majority vote. HJTA has filed suit claiming that it should have required a two-thirds majority because, they argue, this is a tax, not a fee.
Members of the committee who voted against the bill are quoted as saying they feel the courts will straighten out the issue of whether this is a fee or a tax.
Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) issued the following statement on the failure of the Senate Natural Resources Committee to pass Senate Bill 17, with the headline, “Rural California Gets Burned Again.”
“The legislature has turned its back on rural California again. 90% of the folks being asked to pay the fire fee already pay local taxes for fire services. Do homeowners in earthquake or flood areas pay additional fees? No. The legislature doesn’t ask people in high crime areas to pay extra for police service. This is bad precedent and an unfair tax on people living in forested areas. It should have been repealed.”
The HJTA lawsuit continues to work its way through the court system. In the meantime, affected property owners must continue to pay the fee, or be subject to penalties and interest.