Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, is trying to bring the state legislature’s attention to the effects of recently enacted laws on rural mountain communities.

Fire Fee
First is his Assembly Bill 1506, which would repeal the state fire fee. While approving a budget for fiscal year 2011-12, the legislature approved a $150 fire tax on private property within State Responsibility Areas.

In a vote that surprised many Capitol observers, Jeffries’ bill to repeal the fire fee passed with overwhelming bipartisan support out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on Monday, March 26.

“I am very pleased with the bipartisan coalition that supported my bill today,” said Jeffries. “The witnesses made a compelling case that this rural fire tax is being unfairly applied and will do nothing to improve our state’s wildland fire fighting ability. We need to scrap this tax and find a better approach to funding public safety.”

Just four days earlier, Jeffries was pessimistic about the bill’s future. “On a good day, it’s an uphill fight,” he said. Jeffries and many Republican legislators have opposed the fee since its inception last July.

Inmate firefighting crews
One of the unintended consequences of the state’s action to realign state inmates to county authority reduces potential availability of inmates for firefighting crews.

AB 1562 will ensure that the CAL FIRE has the expanded authority to contract individually or collectively with local counties to organize and operate local fire crews while insuring that county inmates remain under the county’s supervision.

Hearings on this bill were Tuesday, March 20, and Jeffries said it passed the committee unanimously. “It’s a good bill with bipartisan support,” he said.

Realignment could reduce the number of inmate firefighting crews by nearly 50 percent. Jeffries attributed this problem to the lack of time to review the bill before its enactment. AB 1562 addresses the problem, but Jeffries acknowledged that county sheriffs would have to make the decision.