Fire Fee Transparency Bill Passes Key Assembly Committee

Monday, June 13, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Today, the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources approved on a bipartisan vote Senate Bill 1136, authored by Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), to require that the legislature and the public annually receive more detailed information regarding the spending of money generated by the controversial fire prevention fee.

“I and others continue to maintain that the fire fee is an illegal tax that should either be repealed or overturned,” said Morrell. “However, until that happens, property owners paying the fee should know how and where their money is being spent. SB 1136 is about transparency and keeps the books open.”

The fire prevention fee was enacted by legislative Democrats in 2011 as part of the state budget and is assessed on property owners in State Responsibility Areas (“SRAs”), which are areas of the state where the State of California is financially responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires.

Cal Fire is currently required to submit to the legislature an annual expenditures report detailing spending of this fee revenue. SB 1136 would further direct the department to report to the legislature a detailed description of each program, subprogram, and element for which the department uses funds generated from the fire prevention fee, including an itemized accounting of expenditures related to equipment and positions as well as its budgeted expenditures for the current fiscal year. This bill also extends the sunset date of the reporting requirement to 2021.

Earlier this legislative session, Morrell’s SB 198, which would have repealed the fire fee, was killed by the majority party in its first committee hearing.  A class-action lawsuit challenging the legality of the fire fee is currently working its way through the courts, with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association leading the effort. To learn more about its status, visit www.FireTaxProtest.org.

SB 1136 passed the committee 8-0. It will next be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.