CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation25 Cal.4th 287,105 Cal.Rptr.2d 636,20 P.3d 533
Decision Date05 April 2001
Docket NumberNo. S078828.,S078828.
PartiesCARMEL VALLEY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. STATE OF CALIFORNIA et al., Defendants and Respondents.

105 Cal.Rptr.2d 636
25 Cal.4th 287
20 P.3d 533

CARMEL VALLEY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
STATE OF CALIFORNIA et al., Defendants and Respondents

No. S078828.

Supreme Court of California.

April 5, 2001.

Rehearing Denied May 23, 2001.

105 Cal.Rptr.2d 637
Law Offices of William D. Ross, William D. Ross and Carol B. Sherman, Los Angeles, for Plaintiffs and Appellants

Lloyd W. Pellman, County Counsel (Los Angeles) and Stephen R. Morris, Principal Deputy County Counsel, for Los Angeles County Consolidated Fire Protection District as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Daniel E. Lungren and Bill Lockyer, Attorneys General, Manuel M. Medeiros, Linda A. Cabatic and Allen Sumner, Assistant Attorneys General, Paul H. Dobson, Andrea Lynn Hoch, Marsha A. Bedwell and Daniel G. Stone, Deputy Attorneys General for Defendants and Respondents State of California, Departments of Finance and Industrial Relations, State Controller Kathleen Connell and State Treasurer Philip N. Angelides.

Camille Shelton, Sacramento, for Defendant and Respondent Commission on State Mandates.


In this case we consider whether Government Code section 17581 and certain budget measures that suspend the operation of administrative regulations adopted by the Department of Industrial Relations violate the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution by encroaching on the power of the executive branch of government. (Cal. Const., art. III, § 3.) We conclude that no separation of powers violation has been demonstrated.


Executive orders promulgated in 1978 by the Department of Industrial Relations require employers to provide certain items of protective clothing and equipment to employees assigned to firefighting duties. (Cal.Code Regs., tit. 8, §§ 3401-3409; formerly 8 Cal. Admin. Code, §§ 3401-3409.)

Carmel Valley Fire Protection District and other local fire protection agencies incurred expenses complying with this order and, in earlier proceedings, submitted a claim for reimbursement of state-mandated expenditures pursuant to California Constitution, article XIII B, section 6. In 1987, the districts prevailed in securing reimbursement for these state-mandated expenditures. (Carmel Valley Fire Protection Dist. v. State of California (1987)

105 Cal.Rptr.2d 638
190 Cal.App.3d 521, 234 Cal.Rptr. 795 (Carrnel I).)

In ensuing years, the state experienced severe fiscal difficulties and undertook various measures to reduce its expenditures. (See Governor's Budget Summary 1992-1993 (Jan. 9, 1992), State and Local Fiscal Relationship, p. 132.) In 1990, the Legislature enacted Government Code section 17581. That provision permits the Legislature to suspend the operation of statutes and executive orders that constitute state-mandated local programs from year to year and to withdraw funding therefor. The Legislature provided in the Budget Act of 1992 that 45 mandates, including the above regulatory requirements regarding protective gear for firefighters, would be suspended pursuant to section 17581 and that no funds would be forthcoming for reimbursement. Of these suspensions, the great majority were of statutory mandates, and only three (including the one presently before us) were regulatory suspensions. (Stats.1992, ch. 587, item XXXX-XXX-XXX, provision 4, including items (l), (m), (w), pp. 2604-2609.) Ensuing budget acts contained the same suspension of the regulatory mandate at issue in the present well as suspension of numerous predominantly statutory mandates. (See Stats.1993, ch. 55, item XXXX-XXX-XXX, provision 4, item (uu), at pp. 763-768 [43 mandates suspended]; Stats.1994, ch. 139, item XXX-XXX-XXX, provision 4, item (w), pp. 1213-1217 [26 mandates suspended].)1

On September 5, 1995, the Carmel Valley Fire Protection District, joined by the Alpine Fire Protection District, the Bonita Sunnyside Fire Protection District, the City of Glendale, the City of Anaheim, the Ventura County Fire Protection District, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, the American Canyon Fire Protection District (a subsidiary district of the City of American Canyon), the Salida Fire Protection District, the West Stanislaus Fire Protection District, the Sacramento County Fire Protection District, the Humboldt No. 1 Fire Protection District, the Samoa-Peninsula Fire Protection District, and the Mammoth Lakes Fire Protection District (collectively referred to as the districts) filed with the Commission on State Mandates (the Commission) a consolidated claim for reimbursement of the expenses they had incurred in supplying their employees with the protective gear noted in the regulations. On June 27, 1996, the Commission rejected the consolidated claim, relying upon Government Code section 17581 and the budget language that deleted funding for this expense.

On October 8, 1996, the districts filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory relief against the State of California, the Commission, the State Department of Finance, the State Department of Industrial Relations, the State Controller, and the State Treasurer, seeking an order that their claims for expenditures from 1992, 1993, and 1994 be paid from specified existing appropriations. Among other contentions, the districts claimed that Government Code section 17581 and the budget language suspending the mandate for firefighters' equipment violated the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution (Cal. Const., art. III, § 3) by purporting to permit the Legislature to veto executive action.

On April 30, 1997, the trial court denied the petition for writ of mandate and dismissed the declaratory relief action. It declared: "Government Code section 17581 having been satisfied, the mandate of California Code of Regulations Title 8, sections 3401-3409, requiring that petitioners provide their employees with specified equipment and clothing, was suspended by operation of the Budget Acts of 1992, 1993 and 1994, thereby making the provision of such equipment and clothing optional on the part of petitioners."

105 Cal.Rptr.2d 639
The trial court also concluded that the Legislature had not "usurp[ed] ... executive functions" in violation of the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution

The districts appealed. As in the trial court, they challenged the suspension of the administrative mandate on several grounds, including the claim that the suspension violated the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment of the trial court, determining that Government Code section 17581, as applied to the districts, constituted a violation of the constitutional separation of powers provision. Because the appellate court reached this conclusion, it did not address the districts' other claims, including a claimed violation of the single-subject rule of the California Constitution. (Cal.Const, art. IV, § 9.)

We granted respondents' petition for review challenging the conclusion of the Court of Appeal with respect to the claimed violation of the separation of powers clause of the state Constitution.



To begin our analysis, we describe the statutory background of the administrative orders at issue in the present case, and note the conflict that has occurred over the provision of funding to carry out these orders.2

In 1973, the Legislature enacted the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (Cal/OSHA). (Lab.Code, § 6300 et seq.) The purpose of the act is to ensure "safe and healthful working conditions for all California working men and women by authorizing the enforcement of effective standards, [and] assisting and encouraging employers to maintain safe and healthful working conditions...." (Lab. Code, § 6300.) The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board within the Department of Industrial Relations is responsible for adopting occupational safety and health standards and orders. (Lab. Code, §§ 140, 142.3, 6305.) It is pursuant to this authority that the executive orders here at issue, relating to protective equipment, were adopted in 1978.

Article XIII B, section 6 of the California Constitution provides, with exceptions not applicable here, that "[w]henever the Legislature or any state agency mandates a new program or higher level of service on any local government, the State shall provide a subvention of funds to reimburse such local government for the costs of such program or increased level of service...."3

Despite existing statutory provisions requiring reimbursement of expenditures for state-mandated local programs, however, the Legislature when it adopted Cal/OSHA also enacted uncodified measures stating that the costs of compliance with regulations imposed pursuant to Cal/OSHA were not subject to reimbursement, on the theory that the costs were minimal and that Cal/OSHA merely restated a federal mandate. (Stats.1973, ch. 993, § 106, p.1954; Stats.1974, ch. 1284, § 36, p. 2787.) In later years, the Legislature appended control language to budget items appropriating funds for reimbursement of state mandates, stating with particularity that no

105 Cal.Rptr.2d 640
application for reimbursement of the cost of compliance with the Cal/OSHA regulations (Cal.Code Regs., tit. 8, §§ 3401-3409) regarding protective gear for firefighters would be processed. (See, e.g., Stats.1981, ch. 1090, § 3, p. 4193.)

In 1987, in Carmel I, supra, 190 Cal. App.3d 521, 234 Cal.Rptr. 795, the Court of Appeal examined this uncodified language in light of the districts' claim for reimbursement for expenses of firefighters' safety equipment. The appellate court rejected as unfounded the Legislature's declaration that it need not provide reimbursement for expenditures required by Cal/OSHA because Cal/OSHA simply restated a federal mandate. That court concluded that pursuant to article XIII B, section 6 of the California Constitution,...

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