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The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation funds HJTA’s legal and educational efforts to protect taxpayers. One important court case this year is a lawsuit filed by HJTA together with the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association and others against the city of San Jose.

The complaint seeks to invalidate San Jose’s municipal ordinance No. 30716, which requires gun owners to pay an annual “Gun Harm Reduction Fee,” because it is a special tax that was not approved by voters as the state constitution requires. Under Proposition 13, added to the constitution in 1978, all local taxes must be voter-approved.

The ordinance not only requires gun owners to pay a fee, but it orders them to pay the fee to a “designated nonprofit organization” chosen by the city manager. The ordinance contains guidelines describing different ways that money from the fee may be spent. Ultimately, however, the nonprofit will determine where the money goes.

The lawsuit, filed in March, contends that requiring gun owners to pay a fee to a nonprofit organization violates the First Amendment by forcing residents “to associate with or support someone else’s organization, particularly a group with which you would not voluntarily assemble.”

In addition to the First Amendment claim, the lawsuit argues that the city has delegated its taxing powers to a private entity, in violation of the state constitution, by authorizing the designated nonprofit to collect the tax, then budget and spend its revenue.

The city of San Jose has tried to get the case dismissed, telling the court that because the dollar amount of the fee and the identity of the private nonprofit organization have not been finalized, it’s too early for a court to consider the case.

HJTA pushed back on that argument. “Plaintiffs need not wait until they are required to pay the challenged fee, or punished for nonpayment, to seek a declaration of their rights when, as here, they allege an imminent denial of their constitutional rights by a governmental agency that claims they have no such rights,” HJTA’s legal team told the court in a filing in May.

Although HJTA doesn’t usually take a position on gun laws, when a city imposes a tax without a vote of the people, we go in, all guns blazing. Thank you for your support of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation and our great legal team.

To stay aware of the status of HJTA’s many legal actions, go to www.hjta.org/legislation/current-legal-cases.