Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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Charges that constitute compensation for the use of government property are not subject to Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. To constitute compensation for a property interest, however, the amount of the charge must bear a reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest, and to the extent the charge exceeds any reasonable value of the interest, it is a tax and requires voter approval. Plaintiffs contended that a one percent charge that was separately stated on electricity bills issued by Southern California Edison (SCE) was not compensation for the privilege of using property owned by the City of Santa Barbara but was instead a tax imposed without voter approval, in violation of Proposition 218. The City argued that this separate charge was the fee paid by SCE to the City for the privilege of using City property in connection with the delivery of electricity. The Supreme Court held that the complaint and stipulated facts adequately alleged the basis for a claim that the surcharge bore no reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest and was therefore a tax requiring voter approval under Proposition 218. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

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Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, a public agency, undertook work to mitigate environmental damage caused by California-American Water Co. (Cal-Am), a public utility, and then assessed a fee on the utility’s customers for the work. The fee was charged as a line item on Cal-Am’s bill and was collected by the Cal-Am on behalf of the District. In the underlying proceedings, Cal-Am filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for authorization to collect the District user’s fee. Before the PUC responded, Cal-Am, the District, and the PUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates entered into a settlement agreement under which the parties agreed that the District’s requested user fee was appropriate. The PUC denied Cal-Am’s application and rejected the settlement agreement. The Supreme Court set aside the PUC decisions rejecting Cal-Am’s application for authorization to collect the District’s user fee, holding that the PUC did not have the power to regulate the District’s user fee. View "Monterey Peninsula Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Pub. Utils. Comm’n" on Justia Law