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HJTA attorneys file and serve the Fire Tax “Motion for Summary Judgment” along with over a thousand pages of evidence!

We are proud to announce that the fire tax motion for summary judgment has been filed and is set for hearing on December 8th.  The motion is accompanied by hundreds of affidavits from fee payers and hundreds more pages of evidence gleaned from the 13,000 pages of discovery dumped on us by the State.  It took hundreds of hours of attorney time to prepare the motion, and it took three banker’s boxes on a hand truck to file and serve it.

To the thousands of you who submitted information, thank you.  Whether or not you were asked to sign an affidavit, you have made our case stronger with the time, energy, and substance of what you have each shared with our office.

Now it is time for opposing counsel to review our motion.  They must file their opposition just after Thanksgiving and we will have one week to reply.  We hope for a just ruling on December 8th, and will be ready to appeal if that is not so.

 
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Update: Cap-and-Trade bill and Changes to the Fire Prevention Fee

This week the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 398, purportedly designed to curb carbon emissions.  This will lead to another increase of 71 cents on a gallon of gasoline. This comes on top of the 12 cent increase they just approved.  (There seems to be no end to the misery that Sacramento is willing to impose on average California taxpayers.)
 
Because AB 398 amounts to a tax increase, passage required a two-thirds vote under Proposition 13.  To gain enough support for passage, leadership sought to “bribe” fiscally conservative lawmakers who represent rural areas, by “suspending” the fire tax.  This means no fire tax bills next year.
 
At HJTA we are pleased that this illegal tax has been “suspended,” but there is no guarantee that once they have achieved their goals, they will not reinstate this tax, which, of course, they call a “fee.”  Additionally, lawmakers have not provided any provision for refunds of the hundreds or thousands of dollars so many rural homeowners have already paid.
 
Because of this, HJTA lawyers will continue to aggressively prosecute the suit against the State of California to have the fire tax declared illegal, and to require refunds to be made to those homeowners who have filed a request for “redetermination” (legalese for paying under protest).
 
Despite State lawyers doing everything to delay this case, we hope to have a decision by the superior court before the end of the year.
 
We will keep you posted on new developments.

 
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Fire Tax Update

We have finished reviewing and classifying the 12,000 pages of documentation we obtained from CalFire through discovery! We now need your help to file our “Motion for Summary Judgment.”

The final evidence needed for our “Motion for Summary Judgment” is written testimony directly from the people paying the Fire Tax. We are especially interested in hearing from those who have paid the “Fire Prevention Fee” but never received an inspection or any particular service in exchange for the “fee.” If you would be willing to give your written testimony, please click on “Submit Information,” or click here.

This massive “Motion for Summary Judgement” will be based on the undisputed facts gathered from CalFire’s documentation and on the written testimony we receive from people like you. We hope this Motion will allow us to get a final decision on the case this summer.

Of course, we do have to accept the possibility that, should we prevail, CalFire may appeal. But that is true of every lawsuit. We know this case has taken a long time to prepare, and we are sensitive to the fact that you have been paying the tax in the meantime. But we’re making good progress. Thank you for hanging in there.

 
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Fire Tax Update: HJTA Attorneys Making Progress

HJTA attorneys continue to make progress in the tedious and time-consuming process of filtering and cataloging thousands of pages of public records documenting how the State spends the money generated by the fire prevention fee. 

Although it is too early to know for sure, we hope these public records alone will be sufficient to prove our case.  That would make a lengthy and expensive trial unnecessary.  We could instead file what’s called a Motion For Summary Judgment. 

Such a motion is appropriate when the facts of the case are not reasonably disputable and the only question for the court to decide is whether the law supports the plaintiff or the defendant. 

If the public records clearly show, as we contend, that funds from the fire prevention fee are being spent on programs that benefit the general public rather than services provided directly to fee payers, this case could be wrapped up in the trial court next year through a Motion For Summary Judgment.

 
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Welcome to the FireTaxProtest website!

After the Legislature, by a mere majority vote, imposed a fire protection “fee” on 850,000 rural homeowners who live in state responsibility areas, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed suit against the state.  At issue: the “fee” provided no additional or new services to property owners, and many property owners receive no service at all; therefore it clearly meets the Proposition 13 definition of a tax, which requires a two-thirds vote of lawmakers.

In an effort to protect all charged taxpayers, our suit was filed as a “class action.” Lawyers for the state, who want to continue to collect the illegal tax, have filed repeated motions to delay trial, including motions to dismiss the case and motions challenging the “class action” status of the suit.  After nearly four years of legal work, the court has ruled that the case may proceed as a class action.   We have just completed the public notification process that a class action suit requires.  It is our hope and intention that the legal process will now proceed rapidly.

While you are here, please sign up for free alerts so we can keep you informed as the case progresses.  Also, please review the FAQs for answers to common questions about the fire tax.

 
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Opinion: Cal Fire’s Corruption of Public Service

Recent investigations have revealed serious issues at Cal Fire including sexual misconduct and lying and cheating on promotional exams. Many of the employees involved in these incidents were not terminated and were instead promoted at later times, prompting critics to say the agency failed to deal appropriately with misconduct.

Click here to read the article.

 
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Update: The judge has granted our Motion regarding Class Notice!

We now have the judge’s approval of the Class Notice’s contents and the ways it will be publicized.  This is an important step in the class action because, once notice is given and the time has passed for people to opt out, everyone who has not opted out will be a plaintiff in our lawsuit and therefore entitled to a refund if we win.  We will begin this official notification process next week, so you can expect to be hearing from us again very soon!

Click here to read the judge’s ruling that granted our motion.

 
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News: Fire districts losing tax votes point finger at state fee

Local fire officials are expressing concern that the statewide fire tax has harmed efforts to raise taxes for local fire protection, due to a false voter perception that the statewide fee’s revenue goes to local fire districts.  In actuality, much of the $300 million raised by the state fire tax is instead spent on administration, inspections and other activities that do not help local communities who pay the tax.

Click here to read the article.

 
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Update: Hearing on motion to certify class cancelled

Today, the Sacramento County Superior Court issued a tentative ruling in HJTA’s fire tax case.  In it, the court granted certification of a class including all persons who are entitled to a refund of fire taxes that they paid; that is, property owners who paid the fire tax and timely filed Petitions for Redetermination.

This tentative ruling is essentially exactly the outcome that HJTA was hoping for.

Click here to read more.

 
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News: California fire fee lawsuit could become class action

A recent telephone town hall on the fire tax was joined by Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Board of Equalization Members George Runner and Diane Harkey and Senator Mike Morrell, who introduced fire tax repeal legislation in the last legislative session.  While the BOE collects the fire tax, Runner and Harkey expressed their opposition to the policy while Coupal discussed the court’s consideration of making the lawsuit a class action, reports the Siskiyou Daily News.

Click here to read the article.

 
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