Definition of 'Sewer' Could Be Expensive

(Cars marooned in water that flooded the street in the San Fernando Valley after storm drains became clogged. Photo by Eric Leonard.)

The state legislature is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would redefine the term ‘sewer’ to include storm drains -- a move designed to avoid a public vote on millions of dollars in new spending for rain water capture systems in Los Angeles County.

SB231, submitted by Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), lays out a series of legal reasons as to why storm channels should be considered part of sewers, thereby allowing the government to add new fees to property tax bills without debate. 

“Neither the words “sanitary” nor “sewerage are used in Proposition 218, and the common meaning of the term “sewer services” is not “sanitary sewerage,”” the bill states.

Proposition 218 was a 1996 constitutional amendment that gave the government the authority to impose fees for certain essential services but required public votes before the imposition of most other taxes.

SB 231 is opposed by the California Association of Realtors -- that warned passage would likely result in significant increases in property tax bills that could make housing less affordable.

“We have to have a say in what happens in our state,” said Glendora Mayor Gary Boyer, who's also a realtor. He said the storm water collection mandate could add more than $1,000 to each parcel owner’s annual property taxes in Glendora in order to pay for the water collection schemes.

“I think it’s very important the people in the state have the right to weigh in on these things,” he said.

Full text of the bill is here.

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