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COB Committee Opposes SB1329

On March 28, Senator Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys gutted and amended his SB 1329 to now establish the right to appeal all issues in an assessment appeal involving locally assessed certificated aircraft, including issues of value, to the Superior Court.  If successful, this would be the first instance where the decisions of the county board of equalization or assessment appeals board affecting value would be subject to a full re-trial in the courts. 

Under current statutory and constitutional law, the Superior Court is limited to reviewing legal issues and claims that the county board acted capriciously or with bias.  SB 1329 would amend Revenue and Taxation Code Section 5170 to provide that the court shall not be restricted to simply reviewing the administrative record established the county board, but shall consider all evidence relating to the valuation of aircraft owned and operated by airlines and air cargo companies.  Thus, the administrative hearing would become an expensive (for counties) and rather meaningless stop on the parties’ way to the Superior Court.

The last similar legislation of memory was in 1995 and 1996.  Those bills would have created a trial de novo for all locally assessed property.  The bills were opposed by counties, CACEO and assessors and were defeated, insofar as their do novo provisions were concerned.

De novo review of county board decisions has been generally viewed as being unconstitutional.  Over the years, the courts have ruled that the county boards are “creatures of the constitution” that function as fact-finding bodies established by law to remedy disputes of value in equalizing the property tax roll.  Thus, the courts have no standing to review their factual findings affecting the value of property.

Last week, CACEO’s Clerk of the Board Legislative Committee voted to oppose SB 1329.  The committee urges all clerks to bring this bill to the attention of their counties and to urge their counties to likewise oppose the bill.  Even if a county has no airport used by certificated aircraft, the county should still oppose this bill as a camel’s nose in the tent.  If this legislation were to become law, it would be a very short time before all appeals of commercial/industrial property, or even all property subject to the property tax, would become subject to the same court review.

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