Taxpayer group files lawsuit to overturn fire prevention ’fee’

From the State Capitol: By STATE SEN. JEAN FULLER

My office has been overwhelmed with calls and questions about notices in the mail that they must pay a fire prevention “fee.” In July 2011 Gov. Brown signed into law AB X1 29. The bill established a fire prevention “fee” for homes within the State Responsibility Area (SRA), an area that encompasses 31 million acres and approximately 825,000 homes.

In the eyes of many, myself included, this “fee” is really a tax. Because it could not persuade the required two-thirds of the legislature to vote for a tax increase, the majority party instead re-labeled it a fee, thereby requiring only a simple majority vote for passage. The majority party in Sacramento used verbal gymnastics to twist and turn a tax increase into law.

As I promised in previous comments and e-mails, I want to update you on attempts to repeal this legislation. Last week the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn this “fee” which we all consider an unconstitutional tax. To read about this lawsuit in the Oct. 4 Sacramento Bee, go to http://ow.ly/eg75n,

This “fee” was passed to help backfill a budget problem that came about as a result of overspending. There is nothing about this tax that will provide better fire protection or prevention for property owners. It was done simply to balance our state budget, and that is wrong and, in this case, illegal.

If you received a notice from the State Board of Equalization and believe you have been billed in error or the amount calculated is incorrect, it’s important that you petition the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) for a redetermination . Use a Fire Prevention Fee Petition for Redetermination form.

My office has already helped many of you locate the form online, as well as personally distributed at least 100 redetermination forms. Again, you can find the petition form by visiting www.firepreventionfee.org or calling the Fire Prevention Fee Service Center at 1-888-310-6447. A list of frequently asked questions and answers can also be found on the www.firepreventionfee.org website.

Please keep in mind that you have 30 days from the date on the billing notice to pay and appeal this fee, so it is important that you take action as soon as possible.

I will continue to keep a close eye on this issue and update you on any progress made to repeal this “fee.” To ensure that you receive a refund, if the lawsuit mentioned above proves successful, I strongly encourage you to file the redetermination form.

Story First Published: 2012-10-10