SACRAMENTO (AP) – California homeowners forced to rebuild because of a wildfire or other natural disaster would not have to install solar panels under a bill that has cleared the state Legislature.

California is the first state in the country to require new homes to install solar panels. The new rules take effect Jan. 1.

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A bill by Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle would exempt homes that were damaged by a disaster. It would only apply to areas where the governor has declared a state of emergency.

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Dahle said the bill is needed to help victims afford to rebuild their homes. The California Energy Commission says solar panels add about $9,500 to the cost of a new home.

But Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener opposed the bill, arguing the exemption is too broad.

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press.