Emily Jo Cureton, The Triplicate

The State Assembly is scheduled to vote next week on a bill to repeal the $150 State Responsibility Area fire fee, which was approved last year to support state fire prevention campaigns.

Critics have maintained the measure is actually an unconstitutionally levied tax. The bills are in the mail or close to it, stirring renewed outcry in Del Norte and other rural counties across California.

"The only solution to fix the injustice of this SRA fee is to completely repeal it," North Coast Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro said in a press release. He is a coauthor of the repeal legislation, SB 1040.

"Assessing it as a flat fee of $150 and charging someone who lives in a mobile home or cabin on the foggy, rainy North Coast the same amount as someone who owns a multi-million-dollar estate in the tinder try hills of Southern California is egregiously inequitable. The SRA fee has been rendered unworkable and the only solution is to get rid of it," Chesbro wrote.

As it stands, the flat $150 fee applies to any habitable structure in a designated SRA, regardless of square footage or fire risk.

Earlier in this legislative session, Chesbro authored a bill to address the fee's inequities, which died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SB 1040 is an urgency bill, written to take effect immediately if signed by the governor, and would require approval of two-thirds of the Assembly, 54 votes. If it passes the Assembly, the bill would be immediately transmitted to the Senate for consideration.

"Repealing this fee would also remove a financial threat to local fire districts, which face an uphill battle persuading property owners to fund their agencies if they are forced to pay a $150 fee to the state," Chesbro said.

"It is these local fire agencies that are the first responders to structure fires in most rural communities."

Reach Emily Jo Cureton at ecureton@triplicate.com.