Local Agencies Fee Collection Challenge Statute of Limitations

In San Marcos Water Dist. v. San Marcos Unified School Dist. (1987) 190 Cal. App. 3d 1083 235 Cal. Rptr. 827, the Court of Appeal ruled that the 120-day statute of limitations set forth in the predecessor to section 66022, former section 54995, applied to an action by a school district seeking a refund of fees that were charged by a public water district for capital improvements. (190 Cal. App. 3d at p. 1086.) Former section 54995 stated that a 120-day statute of limitations applied to "any judicial action or proceeding to attack, review, set aside, void, or annul an ordinance, resolution, or motion levying a new fee or service charge, or modifying or amending an existing fee or service charge, duly enacted by a local agency . . . ." (See Stats. 1988, ch. 926, 2, p. 2952.) The court explained that its ruling was supported by important policy considerations. "Former section 54995 represents a legislative recognition that the planning requirements of financially constrained local agencies in post-Proposition 13 California necessitate a relatively short statute of limitations so that local agencies will be promptly informed of any challenges to their ability to collect fees and spend the revenues thereby generated." (Id. at p. 1085.) Although San Marcos has been on the books for more than a decade, the Legislature has never expressly indicated any disagreement with that decision. Indeed, about two years after San Marcos was decided, the Legislature repealed the portion of former section 54995 at issue in that case and reenacted it as current section 66022, subdivision (a). (See Stats. 1990, ch. 1572, 22, p. 7505.) Although the Legislature made some minor grammatical changes to the statute, the language the San Marcos court found pivotal was adopted without change. When the Legislature readopts statutory language that has been judicially construed, "it is presumed to have been aware of such constructions and to have acquiesced in them . . . ." (Guardianship of Stephen G. (1995) 40 Cal. App. 4th 1418, 1425 47 Cal. Rptr. 2d 409.)