A bill that would repeal the rural fire fee for homeowners in rural counties cleared its first hurdle last week, winning approval in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a 7-1 vote. While few seem to believe that AB 1506 will get very far in the state legislature, there was some level of surprise that it had even managed to find strong support in its first committee test. It moves next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but it remains to be seen whether there are enough Democrats who have misgivings about the fee to actually send it packing. Democrats who sided with Republicans in the first committee test represent districts that have plenty of houses that will be impacted by the fee since they fall under State Responsibility Areas. Assemblyman Wes Chesbro (D-Eureka) has said the fee is “inequitable in places,” such as his rain-soaked district, where there are an estimated 85,000 housing units in the responsibility area, the most in the state, based on census and Cal Fire data.
The new $150 annual fee has drawn fierce opposition from homeowners and county officials throughout rural parts of the state and it is slated to affect around 800,000 homeowners beginning this summer. Governor Jerry Brown (D) pushed the fee as a way to generate $85 million annually for the state and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection starting in fiscal 2012-13.
One amended change to the fee is offering a $35 discount for structures in local fire districts, but the token gesture has done little to assuage critics. -Geisel/California County News