Sacramento County backs higher marriage certificate fee for domestic abuse program

Sacramento County supervisors on Tuesday backed a proposal to increase fees on marriage certificates and other vital records to help pay for domestic abuse programs.

Supervisors voted 5-0 to co-sponsor state legislation that would enable the county to impose the additional charges, with Roberta MacGlashan offering the only resistance. She said opposition by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association concerned her and would have to be considered if a fee increase comes back to the board.

Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, recently introduced legislation that would allow Sacramento County to increase fees on marriage documents, death records and birth certificates to fund agencies that address domestic violence.

The board vote indicated how supervisors view the fee increase, which would have to come back for their approval, should the Legislature approve Cooley’s bill.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has opposed several proposals to increase fees on certified copies of records in other jurisdictions, arguing that such proposals violate a state law requiring a two-thirds vote of the public and the Legislature for fees and taxes, according to a county staff report. But regulatory fees are not subject to the law, the report says.

The Legislature has approved similar fee increases in five counties and one city.

According to its proposed bill language, the county is seeking to increase the fee on marriage certificates, birth certificates and death records by $4 through 2021, with an option each year to increase the fee to account for inflation.

Cooley’s proposal, Assembly Bill 1127, has different language that allows for a $4 fee hike on marriage licenses and a $2 increase on the other vital records.

The revenues would help fund the Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center, a program that recently retired District Attorney Jan Scully has long worked to get started. Her replacement in the District Attorney’s Office, Anne Marie Schubert, urged supervisors to back the fee increase.

“This is something we very much need,” she said of the center. “The Family Justice Center will take a holistic approach. We will not just look at domestic abuse but also child abuse and human trafficking.”

Fee revenues also could benefit other community organizations that work with domestic violence victims, depending on how the Board of Supervisors decides to spend the money.

There are 17 family justice centers in California, with the first one having started in San Diego. The approach they take to violence has earned the support from a number of federal agencies, according to the county staff report.

Scully said the centers focus on getting involved with families to address root causes of violence and providing a single location where families can access myriad services.

She said 40 agencies will provide assistance when the center opens, possibly this summer. So far, the center has received more than $100,000 in funding from the county, the city of Sacramento and other local governments. Scully said the center also will rely on donations from the public and the $500,000 the marriage fee increase is expected to raise.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.