BILL ANALYSIS SENATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE Senator Dave Cox, Chair BILL NO: SB 902 HEARING: 4/7/10 AUTHOR: Ashburn FISCAL: No VERSION: 3/11/10 CONSULTANT: Weinberger COUNTY REGULATION OF FIRE COMPANIES Background and Existing Law In the beginning there were fire companies. Before the arrival of fire protection districts, which are public agencies, residents of cities and unincorporated towns organized unpaid fire companies. Volunteer fire companies in unincorporated areas organize by annually filing a certificate, containing specified information, with the county's Fire and Rescue Operational Area Coordinator, or with another county agency as designated by ordinance. A county board of supervisors may require an updated or second filing each year. Boards of supervisors in counties with populations above 1,000,000 can, by ordinance, regulate the formation, continued existence, and ongoing operation of fire companies in unincorporated areas (SB 1993, Ayala, 1984). Currently, the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Alameda, Sacramento, and Contra Costa have populations of more than 1,000,000. Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Bernardino counties have adopted these ordinances. A court recently held Kern County liable for a Worker's Compensation claim by a member of a volunteer fire company which had registered with the County. Kern County officials say that if they're liable for claims, then they want to regulate volunteer fire companies' risk management practices and their role in the County's emergency plans. Proposed Law Senate Bill 902 reduces, from 1,000,000 to 400,000, the population threshold that a county must meet to be able to regulate the formation, continued existence, and ongoing operations of fire companies. SB 902 -- 3/11/10 -- Page 2 Comments Power and responsibility . By authorizing counties with populations of at least 400,000 to regulate volunteer fire companies, Senate Bill 902 gives this regulatory power to 12 additional counties: Fresno, Ventura, San Francisco, Kern, San Mateo, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sonoma, Tulare, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Solano. It's only fair that if counties are liable for volunteer fire companies' actions, they should have a say in their operations. Support and Opposition (4/1/10) Support : Counties of Kern and Sonoma. Opposition : Unknown.