In the early 1990s, then-state Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) called on the federal government to allow increased killing of seals and sea lions, which he claimed were drawing great whites too close to shore.
Those, of course, were less enlightening times. Today, a state legislator who represents parts of Orange County--and who pundits claim may become the next Senate Republican leader--is not talking about clubbing baby seals and sea lions. No, Bob Huff's problem is apparently with sea otters.
Huff's 29th District mostly encompasses parts of eastern Los Angeles and western San Bernardino counties, although it does include the Orange County cities of Brea, La Habra, Placentia and Yorba Linda, as well as part of Anaheim.
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Assembly Bill 971 does not call for welfare for sea otters. It merely re-enacts the California Sea Otter Fund, one of those voluntary programs funded by people who check a box on their tax filings saying they want to contribute a certain amount. Since going into effect in 2006, the fund has received more than $1.3 million for sea otter research. Re-authorizing the totally voluntary funding is the state Senate equivalent of a consent calendar item before the city council.
Instead of allowing the routine unanimous vote on AB971, Senate Republicans called for a roll-call vote. The final tally was 33-3 in favor, with Huff, Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) and Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) providing the sole opposition. Perhaps Huff felt he had to vote the same as Anderson as both are seeking the party leadership position.
That was no excuse for the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who asked his colleagues incredulously after the vote, "Who's against the sea otters for God's sake?!"