Will Governor Brown put his signature behind Hertzberg’s SB231?

Protect your voting rights now and contact Governor Brown’s office to request that he vetoes SB 231.

On Thursday, Aug. 31 2017, prior to Labor Day weekend, CA State Senator Bob Hertzberg received the dubious victory of watching his property tax legislation, SB 231, narrowly squeak through the State Assembly by one vote.

It’s been a long road for SB 231. This was Hertzberg’s second attempt doggedly pushing his bill through Sacramento. He had submitted it last year under a different name, and it failed to pass due to concerns from both sides of the political aisle. There is still plenty of skepticism today regarding the legalities of SB 231.

Will Governor Brown approve SB 231?

This past Friday, Governor Brown signed many bills into law, but SB 231 was noticeably omitted, although two of Hertzberg’s other pieces of legislation were approved. It’s possible the troubled bill may not be authorized due to the fact it removes citizen’s voting rights that are guaranteed under Prop 218. If the governor signs this law into effect it could open the State to class action suits on behalf of residents.

Protect your voting rights now and contact Governor Brown’s office to request that he does not approve SB 231.

Email via the web pagehttps://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail
via Phone: (916) 445-2841
or Fax: (916) 558-3160

The consequences of SB 231:

Prior to Sen. Hertzberg writing his legislation, polling showed that residents would not approve of this tax increase. Realizing the futility of placing it on the ballot, Sen. Hertzberg designed legislation which would circumvent the voter requirements and grant local governments the right to levy this property assessment directly.

Why is there an attempt to raise property taxes right now?

SB 231 was designed to allow local cities, and the County of Los Angeles, to tax property owners for a new stormwater assessment. There is a $20 billion stormwater infrastructure mandate in the works, dubbed the “MS4” Permit, and it requires funding. SB 231 would remove homeowner’s rights to vote on this tax and it could be applied to property bills without cap limits.

There were many legislators opposed to this sleight of hand, and thanks are owed to our Glendora representatives, Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, State Senator Anthony Portantino, The California Association of Realtors, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and many others who took a stance of principled opposition on behalf of voter rights.

Background on the MS4 Stormwater Permit:

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Great News! We spoke and our legislators listened.

Recently, I wrote an article about my opposition to Senate Bill 1298 which, if passed, would allow stormwater management costs to be added to property tax assessments without a citizen vote. SB 1298 was deeply flawed from a Constitutional and legal standpoint. It aimed to create a loophole in Prop 218, the “Right to Vote on Taxes Act” and was a clear disregard of the voting rights of California residents.

I’m pleased to announce that Sen. Hertzberg of Van Nuys, the author of SB 1298, has chosen to withdraw his bill, at least for this year. It is the second time in recent years that a proposed property tax assessment for stormwater management in LA County has been defeated, in large part, to grassroots opposition. Thanks to everyone who shared the word and contacted local legislators and Governor Brown to voice opposition.

However, we must stay vigilant because there is another tax threat in the pipeline: Los Angeles Supervisor Sheila Kuehl is crafting a “funding strategy” called the “Drought Resiliency Funding Plan” which will be unveiled in 2017. I will be following this closely and keeping residents informed.

Sincerely,

Judy Nelson

Citizen Alert: Stormwater Fees that could impact your property tax bill

Senate Bill 1298, called “Local Government: Fees and Charges,” is proposed legislation moving rapidly through the CA State Assembly and Senate in Sacramento. It aims to create a loophole in Prop 218 so that stormwater assessments can be added to property taxes without being placed on the election day ballot. It could open the door to dramatic property tax increases that avoid the standard 2/3 voter approval.  If you are concerned about losing your right to vote on new property tax assessments please read the details below and contact your state legislators and Gov. Brown to voice your opinion.  If it passes in the Assembly and Senate this month, it will be sent to the Governor in September for his signature or veto.

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In 2012, the LA Regional Water Board mandated groundbreaking stormwater requirements for all cities in the county. The mandate, called a MS4 Permit, requires extensive new infrastructure and is estimated to cost more than $20 Billion over the next 20 years to implement. While we all want to conserve water and prevent pollution from reaching the ocean, there is currently no budget to pay for the new systems. The City of Glendora has estimated costs at $233 million.

In order to create a revenue stream, Senator Robert Hertzberg of the San Fernando Valley wrote Senate Bill 1298 so that stormwater costs can be added to property tax bills. While it would create much needed funding, it is constitutionally questionable. It removes the 2/3 voting requirement for new taxes and allows stormwater assessments to avoid being placed on the election day ballot.

SB 1298 aims to weaken Prop 218, the “Right to Vote on Taxes Act” which was passed by voters 20 years ago to ensure that new or increased taxes, fees and assessments would be approved by the people before being enacted. SB 1298 attempts to change the Public Utilities Code definition of “sewer service,” to include stormwater. It would allow local governments to pass the storm water management costs directly to residents via a “protest ballot” which is a non-standard vote held outside of normal election proceedings, and is historically known to disenfranchise voters.

In the City of Glendora, it is estimated that a stormwater property tax assessment could average $1200 per year for residential properties. It would also impact schools, hospitals, businesses and churches. For people who are on fixed income, the elderly, and those who are struggling to meet their mortgages each month, it could be particularly damaging.

Last year, polling was conducted to determine whether voters would approve a Constitutional Amendment to Prop 218, to allow stormwater costs to be added to the three utility assessments that are exempt from an election day vote: trash, sewage, and household water use. The polling results showed that citizens would not support creating an exemption for stormwater, and the measure would most likely fail at the ballot box. Residents specifically showed disapproval for it being passed “without voter approval.” Shortly after these polling results, Senator Hertzberg created SB 1298 to do exactly that… circumvent the need for voter approval by wordsmithing the language of Prop 218 to call stormwater “sewage.”

The bill is a “gut and amend” which means that the stormwater legislation was stuffed into the bill late in the process. Due to this, it will not be thoroughly vetted in committees. It is moving rapidly and appears that it will be passed by the Senate and Assembly before the end of this month. It would then proceed to the Governor’s desk where many local cities are advocating for a veto. Currently, cities are sending opposition letters to Sacramento on behalf of their citizens. Local journalists on both sides of the political spectrum have also published opposition articles. It is clearly a bi-partisan issue which crosses political boundaries.

If legislators want financial support from residents for stormwater managment, it should be obtained by following the standard practice of placing the measure on the election day ballot. Ultimately, it will also be necessary to find State and Federal funding for the implementation of the MS4 permit.

There are many questions about the legality of SB 1298, and if it is passed there are organizations considering court challenges on behalf of the taxpayers.  What is abundantly clear at the moment, is that attempting to force residents to pay for stormwater by thwarting the democratic process with not sit well with them.

Below is additional background information regarding SB 1298.

Click the links to read the attachments:

Glendora Opposition Letter

Details about the poll regarding Prop 218 Constitutional Amendment

Tribune Editorial

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Opposition Letter 

Sincerely,

signature

Judy Nelson
Councilwoman, City of Glendora

Boardmember:
San Gabriel Valley Council of Government Water Committee
San Gabriel Valley Council of Government Energy, Environment and
Natural Resources Committee
San Gabriel Valley Water Association
Rivers and Mountains Conservancy
National Forest Foundation Community Collaborative

WATER WATCH: City Council Opposes Proposed State Stormwater Bill SB1298

Reprinted with permission from Glendora City News

Article and photo by: Aaron Castrejon

Glendora City leaders expressed concern July 12, 2016 over a proposed state senate bill aimed at giving local governments power to set water rates and finance storm water projects.

The council voted 4-0, with Council member Mendel Thompson absent, to send a letter of opposition to the state Legislature, League of California Cities, California Contract Cities and Governor Jerry Brown regarding SB 1298, urging them to vote against any legislation that would subvert Prop 218. (Click to read the City’s letter here: Senate Bill 1298 Glendora Opposition Letter)

Council member Judy Nelson and Mayor Pro-Tem Gary Boyer requested to agendize and discuss the item at the July 12 City Council meeting after business owners raised serious issues with the cost of implementing a stormwater permit possibly passed on to them.

“There was such concern at the meeting amongst business owners about the potential cost that could be assessed on properties without voter approval,” Nelson said.

SB 1298 could conflict with existing law under the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act.

Prop 218, a California constitutional amendment, protects taxpayers by limiting how local governments and charter cities can increase taxes, fees and charges without taxpayer consent.

The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit went into effect in December of 2012. The MS4 permit requires municipalities to implement measures to clean polluted storm water emptied into each city’s catch basins, storm drain lines, road gutters and from curbs, but at a staggering cost.

Glendora, the county and five other cities which are tasked with creating an Enhanced Watershed Management Plan for their geographical area calculated a worst case scenario for possible costs incurred by adhering to the permit, said Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers.

Los Angeles County could pay $20 billion over a 20-year period, while Glendora alone could be responsible for $233 million of that amount.

If the conflicting language in SB 1298 remains, it could pass those fees down to property owners, who could see an annual fee of $1200 for “average property” sizes, Nelson said.

SB 1298, authored by Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), was created to “safeguard California’s water supplies by giving local governments more authority to finance local water projects and set reasonable rates,” according to the senator’s website.

The proposed bill would add definitions and change others in Prop 218, some of those changes include changing the definition of “water” to define “water service,” meaning “services provided by any system of public improvements intended to provide for the production, storage, supply, treatment, or distribution of water from any source, according to an analysis provided by the Assembly.

SB 1298 also makes findings and declarations that Prop 218 was meant to improve transparency and accountability of local government fees, arguing that some court interpretations see the law as requiring local governments to manage water supplies and address water pollution, establish rates to encourage conservation and provide assistance for low-income residents, the Assembly Analysis reported.

“The whole purpose of Prop 218 was to ensure transparency on tax increases and to ensure that citizens had a right to vote on every tax increase, assessment increase and fee increase imposed on them,” Nelson said. “This proposition [SB 1298] would pass without any voter knowledge or input.”

Boyer expressed great concern over SB 1298’s redefining of “water service” as too vague.

“It can virtually mean anything. The idea of 218 was to really protect us and give us a say. If this bill passes, it’s going to water down Proposition 218 so much that I can see it’s almost going to be useless in the future,” Boyer added.

Even with reasonable adjustments to the bill the city is seeking though, the cost to implement the MS4 storm permit could rise, Jeffers said. To what degree would be depend greatly on testing and results being done on rivers and runoff that street runoff funnels into.

The League of California Cities has raised concerns over SB 1298 with Hertzberg who was receptive and possibly looking to adopt given suggestions, city staff said.

The state Legislature is in recess until August and the new bill language will not be known until then.