By Mary Alice Murphy

A Legislative Finance Committee analyst, whose full name the Beat did not learn, made some observations about the emergency declaration state statute.

"The statute that has existed since the 1950s has come under scrutiny because the language does not fit the emergency orders that the governor is issuing," Ellen said. "The state can allocate up to $750,000 for each eligible recipient. It goes through the Homeland Security Secretary to leverage federal funding. It is permanently for fire protection. "$50 million has been allocated, plus $51 million to lenders. The state works with partners who work out who should be reimbursed. For the Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, the 25 percent was waived through Aug. 5. Generally, the money is taken out of the General Contingency Fund, but it has also been taken out of the General Operating Fund, which may be illegal."

She noted that 139 executive orders have already been issued in 2022, with some requesting above the maximum amount. "The Legislature should discuss changing the limits."

Ellen said that an additional issue in 2020 caused funding to be taken out of the General Operating Fund, which was not allowed statutorily.

Another problem is the timeliness of reversions. "When orders are taking 8-10 years to expend, the Legislature discussed reversion, but there is still a significant amount of funds that have not been reverted. Also, there is not a clear definition of what constitutes an emergency."

"The state can expect to have a need to spend money yearly on firefighting and emergencies, but funding is not set aside for those purposes," Ellen said. "The final issue is that there was a reporting requirement that has not been resolved."

To a question about when the last update to the limit occurred, Ellen said the last update had increased the limit from $500,000 to $750,000 and was maybe a decade ago.

LFC Chairman George Muñoz said: "There needs to be a deadline to expend the funding."

 

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