Governor signs Esperanza Fire Bill

Battin’s SB 38 will assist property owners impacted by fire


Senator Jim Battin (R-La Quinta) is pleased to announce that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 38 on Friday, September 21.  Battin’s legislation will bring tax relief to property owners who lost their homes in the October 2006 Esperanza Fire. 

 The Esperanza fires burned more than forty-thousand acres in Riverside County, burning 34 homes, 20 outbuildings and destroying land and wildlife.  Of even greater impact was the five firefighters who lost their lives fighting the blaze.  The community still mourns the deaths of Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser of Idyllwild, Jason McKay of Phelan, Jess McLean of Beaumont, Pablo Cerda of Fountain Valley and Daniel Hoover–Najera of San Jacinto.

 “Last year’s wildfire was a tragic event.  The lives lost cannot be replaced, and we continue to wish the families of those brave firefighters peace and to pray for them,” Battin said.  “While not diminishing that sacrifice, many property owners saw their lives turned upside down by the fire as well.  SB 38 will help the homeowners who lost property adjust financially to the fire’s destruction.”

 SB 38 will allow effected property owners to retain their property tax exemption, and will make them eligible for a refund of any property taxes already paid in excess of the new value of the property.  The bill will also reimburse Riverside County to backfill any property tax revenue loss resulting from assessment reductions related to the wildfire.

 “Homeowners who lost their property to the Esperanza Fire will need all the financial assistance they can get as they rebuild.  SB 38 brings them some tax relief and will ensure that Riverside County continues to get its full share of local property tax revenues so our schools are not unduly impacted.”

 In February, Battin pushed through SB 41 to change state tax law and allow the United Way to disburse money donated by the community to the families of the five firefighters who died fighting last fall’s Esperanza Fire.  A quirk in federal and state tax codes had prevented the non-profit from giving money to specific recipients.  The bill was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger on February 7, 2007 in a local ceremony.