BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 2485
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   May 3, 2006 

                                   Judy Chu, Chair

                    AB 2485 (Jones) - As Amended:  April 24, 2006 

          Policy Committee:                              Water, Parks &  
          Wildlife     Vote:                            11-0
                        Revenue & Taxation                      5-2

          Urgency:     No                   State Mandated Local Program:  
          Yes    Reimbursable:              No


          This bill establishes a process for enhancing penalties imposed  
          for activities that can harm sea otters and other marine  
          mammals, and establishes a sea otter research program and  
          options for funding that program, including a personal income  
          tax (PIT) checkoff.

           FISCAL EFFECT  

          1)Minor penalty revenue, probably less than $50,000 annually  
            starting in FY 2006-07, generated by enhanced penalties  
            related to mammals, marine mammals, and fully-protected  
            mammals, including sea otters.  (Fish and Game Preservation  

          2)Moderate costs, perhaps $250,000 annually starting in FY  
            2007-08, to the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to  
            investigate sea otter mortality and enhance related  
            enforcement.  These costs are covered by money from the  
            California Sea Otter (CSO) Fund and other funds that may be  
            appropriated by the Legislature.  (CSO Fund and GF)

          3)Moderate costs, perhaps $250,000 annually starting in FY  
            2007-08, to the California Coastal Conservancy (conservancy)  
            to conduct research and other programs related to sea otters.  
            (CSO Fund and GF.)

          4)Minor GF revenue loss, about $15,000 annually starting the  
            year following the CSO Fund checkoff's appearance on the PIT  
            form.  If the checkoff first appears on the 2008 tax return  


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            due in April 2009, annual GF revenue loss is $15,000 beginning  
            in FY 2009-10. 


           Specifically, this bill:

          1)States legislative intent to enact legislation to establish a  
            research program to reduce sea otter mortality from Nonpoint  
            source pollution and to develop treatment for pathogens  
            affecting this mortality.

          2)Increases, from either $1,000 or $5,000 to $25,000, the  
            maximum fine imposed for each unlawful taking of a marine  
            mammal or a fully-protected mammal.

          3)Requires a warning label to be affixed to cat litter products  
            that discourages consumers from flushing used cat litter down  
            the toilet or dumping it in gutters or storm drains.

          4)Adds mammals to the list of fish, plants, and birds protected  
            by a provision that subjects persons who release deleterious  
            substances or materials into water to a maximum $25,000 fine.

          5)Authorizes the addition of the CSO Fund income tax checkoff to  
            the personal income tax form upon the removal of another  
            income tax checkoff from the form, but expresses legislative  
            intent that the sea otter checkoff appear on the 2008 tax  

          6)Creates the CSO Fund, from which the following allocations are  

             a)   50% of available funds is allocated to the DFG to  
               increase investigation, prevention, and enforcement to  
               decrease sea otter mortality, for research programs,  
               education programs, and related assistance with sea otter  

             b)   50% of remaining funds to the conservancy for research  
               and programs related to sea otters.


           1)Rationale  .  The author contends that, while sea otter  


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            populations along California's coast have increased  
            significantly in recent years due to the enactment of enhanced  
            protections and the establishment of various coastal and  
            marine sanctuaries, sea otter mortality rates have begun to  
            increase.  There is evidence to indicate that water quality  
            degradation, in particular the introduction of pathogens into  
            the marine environment that are harmful to sea otters, is the  
            primary cause for this increased mortality.  Necropsies  
            performed on dead sea otters reveal the presence of used cat  
            litter containing cat feces that contain these harmful  
            pathogens.  The used cat litter is presumably introduced into  
            the marine environment when it is flushed down toilets or  
            disposed into gutters or storm drains along the coast.  

           2)Background  .  Cat feces carrying Toxoplasma parasites are  
            appearing in coastal waters, where they can infect sea otters,  
            causing brain damage and eventual death. Toxoplasma caused 17%  
            of sea otter deaths examined from 1998 to 2001, and individual  
            sea otters with moderate to severe brain inflammation were  
            four times more likely to die from a shark attack. Cats are  
            infected by eating infected birds or rodents. As a result, sea  
            otter researchers have urged owners to keep their cats indoor  
            and to dispose of used cat litter so as not to introduce  
            infected cat feces into the marine environment.  Once the  
            Toxoplasma reached the ocean, it may be concentrated in  
            mussels, oysters and clams, major food sources for some  

           3)Sea Otter populations  along the California coast, after having  
            been virtually eliminated by the fur trade of the 18th and  
            19th centuries, staged a partial comeback to about 2,400 in  
            1995.  Since then, however, the number of sea otters has  
            declined to around 1,900.  Sea otters face, in addition to  
            brain damage caused by the Toxoplasma parasite, several  
            maladies caused by concentrations of DDT and other pesticides  
            washed into the coastal waters from agricultural operations  
            (primarily adjacent to Monterey Bay) and concentrations of  
            polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals from  
            stormwater and industrial discharge.  In the past three years,  
            dead and dying sea otters have been found with domoic acid, a  
            toxin produced by decaying algae produced by increased organic  
            matter in the nearshore environment.  

          Oil pollution continues to be the primary threat to sea otters.   
            An oil spill can cause hypothermia and organ damage in sea  


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            otters when their insulating fur becomes matted by oil.

           4)Tax Checkoffs  .  State taxpayers contribute money to one or  
            more of 13 voluntary contribution funds by checking a box on  
            their PIT return.  California law requires contributions made  
            through checkoffs to be made from taxpayers' own resources  
            (not from their tax liability, as is possible on federal  
            income tax returns).  Checkoff amounts may be claimed as  
            charitable contributions on taxpayers' returns during the  
            subsequent year.

            To address concerns that a proliferation of checkoffs will  
            cause California's PIT form to grow to three pages, at  
            considerable cost to the state, all checkoff bills are  
            required to include a sunset date, a $250,000 minimum  
            contribution requirement indexed for inflation, and queuing  
            language to ensure that any new checkoff is not added to the  
            PIT form until an existing checkoff is removed.  This boil is  
            consistent with that policy. 

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Steve Archibald / APPR. / (916)