Assembly Committee Rejects Calls for More Transparency

Blocks Senator Morrell’s effort to shine light on fire fee spending
Monday, August 15, 2016

SACRAMENTO – At the recent hearing of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, legislative Democrats sidelined Senator Mike Morrell’s (R-Rancho Cucamonga) Senate Bill 1136, which would have required additional transparency in state spending of the controversial fire prevention fee, also known as the fire tax.

“Working to repeal and shine light on the fire tax is one of my top priorities,” said Morrell. “SB 1136 simply asked for more program information to be readily available to the public and ensure access to it in the years ahead. It is frustrating and perplexing that, despite bipartisan and unanimous support throughout the year, the Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee refused to approve the measure. Taxpayers have the right to know how every dollar of their money is being spent. There should not be an expiration date on government transparency.”

The fire prevention fee was enacted in 2011 as part of the state budget and is assessed on property owners in State Responsibility Areas (“SRA”) for which the state assumes primary responsibility for fire protection and prevention activities. Enacted without a two-thirds vote of the legislature, it is likely an illegal tax, an issue that is currently pending in the courts.

SB 1136 would have created additional layers of transparency by requiring the annual department report provided to the legislature to include a description of each program and subprogram funded by the SRA fee, including an itemized accounting of these expenditures. The bill also would have extended the sunset date of the reporting requirement to 2021, which will now end in January 2017. The measure was held on the Assembly Appropriations “suspense” file without a final vote of the committee.

Earlier this legislative session, Morrell also introduced SB 198 to repeal the fire fee.

To learn more about the status of the lawsuit challenging the fire tax, visit www.FireTaxProtest.org.