Date: May 16, 2011
Source: News Room
Waste industry lobbyists are supporting a California bill (SB 841) that would protect haulers from potential Proposition 26 litigation challenging city or county fees for solid waste and recycling programs. Prop. 26, passed last November, broadened the definition of taxes to include payments previously considered fees or charges. That makes those charges now subject to required approval by two-thirds of each house of the Legislature or by local voters. The fear is that without the new legislation, haulers under contract or franchise agreements could be responsible for paying millions of dollars to municipalities that are sued under Prop. 26. SB 841, sponsored by state Sen. Lois Wolk (D), would prohibit local governments from requiring waste haulers to compensate local jurisdictions for Prop. 26 lawsuits that result in findings that solid waste fees are unconstitutional and require voter approval. SB 841 supporters also argue that it would not be fair to hold haulers responsible for fees that usually exceed what they are paid and used instead to subsidize general fund obligations of local governments.
According to a draft SB 841 "talking points" paper, the bill is intended to apply restrictions on local agencies' ability to require indemnification, or compensation, for challenges to local solid waste fees under Prop. 26. "Local governments should not be allowed to pass their risk of imposing unconstitutional fees on to private firms that had no responsibility for: (a) determining the amount of these fees or (b) even imposing these fees in the first instance."