A recent analysis by the Commission on State Mandates to deny a test claim brought by a group of water agencies threatens the eligibility of many special districts and other local government agencies. In the past, the Commission held that the voters’ or customers’ ability to reject any revenue increases given the adoption of Proposition 218 in 1996 meant that local agencies were entitled for reimbursements for certain state mandates. The Commission has now reversed this, without explanation, and has also held that local governments must receive “tax revenues” to be even eligible for reimbursements.

As to new state mandates, it could be interpreted that a local agency will need to exhaust all attempts to fund a mandate, including a “try but fail” attempt for any special taxes, fees or assessments subject to voter and/or property owner approvals. Such actions may be required before being made eligible for state reimbursement.

Of the many mandates, there is a lot of discussion again for storm water management: Is it a state mandated effort? Moreover, legislation has been introduced that could add storm water fees to the list with water and wastewater whereby no ballot per se is required.

This is an issue to watch!