Fire Fee Transparency Measure Passes First Committee

Monday, March 28, 2016

Senate Bill 1136, legislation authored by Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) to require more detailed information on how CalFire spends money generated by the controversial fire prevention fee, was recently passed by a unanimous vote of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

“I and many others still maintain that the fire prevention ‘fee’ is an illegal tax and should be overturned, but while it is in effect, property owners should at least know how their money is being spent,” said Morrell. “SB 1136 is a transparency and accountability measure that answers the questions of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers across California.”

The fire prevention fee was enacted by the majority party in 2011 as part of the state budget and is assessed on property owners in State Responsibility Areas (“SRA”), which include many parts of the San Bernardino Mountains and the high desert. CalFire is currently required to submit an annual expenditures report to the legislature. Under SB 1136, CalFire would have to include a description of each program and subprogram for which the department uses SRA fee revenue. This bill also extends the sunset date of the reporting requirement to 2021.

“The department has provided more detailed information about the spending of fire fee money when pressed, however, this is information that should readily be available to the public,” continued Morrell. “CalFire does good work for our communities. It should not be a problem to further report its activities as it relates to the fire fee.”

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. To learn more about its status, visit www.FireTaxProtest.org.

SB 1136 was approved on a vote of 9-0. It will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee later this spring.