Senate Rules Committee Passes Urgency Legislation for Fallen Esperanza Firefighters

Palm Desert – Senator Jim Battin (R – La Quinta) announced that at his request the Senate Rules Committee approved a rule waiver today to allow urgency legislation to assist the families of five firefighters killed in the Esperanza Fire to be heard and voted on in the Senate tomorrow. (Bills typically need to be in print for 30 days before they can move through the committee process.) SB 41 will make a change in the tax law, allowing the Central County United Way in Hemet to disburse money donated by the community to the families without endangering their tax status as a non-profit organization.

Both state and federal tax laws have traditionally prohibited tax-exempt charitable organizations from disbursing money to benefit specific individuals. To ensure the Central County United Way does not endanger their tax-exempt non-profit status, the law needed to be amended to enable the United Way to disburse the $1.3 million that has been raised for the families of the five fallen firefighters, who died in the October 2006 Esperanza Fire. Congresswoman Mary Bono led the California delegation in passing legislation, H.R. 6429, on the federal level to fix this problem. The law was signed by President Bush on December 21, 2006.

Battin represents the fire devastated area, and moved immediately to introduce the necessary legislation on the state level and has worked hard to ensure the legislation was expedited through the Senate. Battin’s legislation has been co-sponsored by the CA Professional Firefighters who issued a letter of support today urging the Senate’s support of Battin’s legislation. The fire devastated portions of Senator Battin’s District along with district areas of Assemblyman Cook and Assemblywoman Garcia who are both co-authors along with other Riverside County legislators.

Battin’s legislation will benefit the relatives of the 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.

“The community generously donated to the families of these courageous firefighters and we should not delay the disbursement any longer. No amount of money can replace the lives lost; however, their families are going to need these funds. These men gave their lives to protect our community – it is only right that we try to help their loved ones.”