A bill in the California state Assembly could make it easier for local governments to charge fees to manage and collect storm water, but critics argue it’s a way to get money from property owners without a vote.
Really, it all comes down to how you define the word “sewer.”
Cities and counties in California can’t charge new fees for property without voter approval. Water and sewer services are exempt.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg says that definition should include stormwater projects as well, citing a court case that struck down one such fee.
“It’s had a chilling effect on the ability of local government to manage their storm water … and so what I’m trying to do in this bill is to clarify the law,” says Hertzberg.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association won that 15-year-old court case arguing storm water systems aren’t the same thing as sewers and need voter approval.
“We’re not saying you can’t finance these programs if you want additional revenue. You just have to get permission from the people who have to pay it,” says the association's president, Jon Coupal.
Coupal says if the bill does become law, he’s ready to take the matter to court again.