BY JEFF HORSEMAN / The Press-Enterprise
State Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula was so outraged when state lawmakers stripped vehicle license fee revenue from cities in 2011, he called for California to be split in two.
But as the state legislative session wound down last week, Stone voted against a bill that would have provided relief to four cities – Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Wildomar and Menifee – that were especially hard hit by the fees’ diversion. His opposition put him at odds with another Inland senator, Democrat Richard Roth of Riverside.
Included in SB 107 was a measure, first proposed by Brown’s office, that would have the state forgive $24 million Riverside County owes for Cal Fire services. The county would then forgive $24 million owed by the four cities for public safety services.
Stone, a former county supervisor who was elected to the Senate last November, represents Wildomar and has been an advocate for the four cities for years. In a speech on the Senate floor, he said SB 107 was sprung on lawmakers with little notice and no opportunity for cities and counties to weigh in.
“And while there’s some very good points in it, such as (help for) the four struggling cities in Riverside County that inappropriately had their (vehicle license fees) stolen from them … it’s creating winners and losers,” Stone said, adding that five cities in his district stretching from Blythe to southwest county would be hurt by SB 107.
Roth, who sits on the budget committee that introduced SB 107, took issue with Stone’s contention that the bill came the last minute. In fact, SB 107 was the subject of several lengthy public hearings, he said.
“We spared no one the opportunity and the time to express their views in extraordinary details,” Roth, who represents Eastvale and Jurupa Valley, said in the Senate chamber.
“(The bill has) been in print. It’s been available for all of us to read week after week, month after month of this legislative cycle,” he added. “So for anyone here in the chamber to suggest that there’s a lack of transparency on this redevelopment issue and the attempt that this administration has made to try and resolve some of these outstanding issues, I find it hard to understand how that statement could be made.”
No city in Riverside County would be hurt by SB 107, Roth said.
Stone didn’t back down.
“This is a debacle,” Stone said, his voice rising. “We have over 450 cities in the state of California and I bet many of you don’t even know the impacts that are going to happen in your respective cities.”
“But I’ll guarantee you, if you pass this tonight, you will hear from your cities and they will demand of you ‘What did you do? … Did you call the cities like I did today that were impacted and said ‘How do you feel about this bill?’”
Roth and the Inland region’s other senators – Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga and Connie Leyva, D-Chino – voted for SB 107, which passed the Assembly 45-31. Morrell represents Menifee.