Fire Fee Transparency Measure Approved by Senate

Bill moves to the Assembly for consideration
Monday, May 2, 2016

SACRAMENTO – The State Senate has approved Senate Bill 1136 by Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) to require that the legislature and the public regularly receive more detailed information regarding the spending of money generated by the controversial fire prevention fee.

“SB 1136 gives property owners a more complete picture of how their money is being spent,” said Morrell. “While I still support efforts to overturn the fee – which I believe is an illegal tax – this bill brings added transparency to the program and ensures that the public has access to this information in the years ahead.”

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 (“SRA”), parts of California where the state is financially responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires.

CalFire 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. This bill also extends the sunset date of the reporting requirement to 2021.

Earlier this legislative session, Morrell introduced SB 198 to repeal the fire fee.  A class action lawsuit challenging the legality of the fire fee is working its way through the courts, with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association leading the effort. More information is available at www.FireTaxProtest.org.

SB 1136 was approved on a unanimous vote of 37-0. It will next be considered in the State Assembly.