Howard Jarvis plans to appeal litigation dismissal

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a notice that it intends to appeal the December state Superior Court decision to dismiss the fire prevention fee litigation.

Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang agreed with the state’s argument that the case had exceeded its limit of five years without any effort to request or demonstrate the need for more time.

At the time of the decision, HJTA’s Director of Legal Affairs, Tim Bittle, said in a press release, “Dismissal of this case was an abuse of discretion and rewards the state for creating delay.”

HJTA President Jon Coupal promised an appeal and recently, that promise was fulfilled.

On March 1, HJTA filed a notice with the court that an appeal was being made.

In July 2017, the Legislature approved the suspension of the fire fee until 2031. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill authorizing the fee’s suspension.

Although the fee is no longer being collected, if HJTA is successful in reopening the case and ultimately prevails in its argument that the fee was a tax, the court could order refunds of past fee payments.

Senate Bill 1044, which state Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Fresno) authored, would permanently repeal the fire fee and orders the state to develop a process “… for refunds of any fire prevention fees collected from owners of habitable structures within State Responsibility Areas …” by Cal Fire from July 2012 through July 1, 2017.

The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee, but no action has been taken.