By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, Feb. 13, 2004

AB 1168 (Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento) would provide for a phased implementation of a program to biomonitor the California populace to evaluate the effects of exposure to 146 listed toxic chemicals. The bill also authorizes the Department of Health Services (DHS) to adopt regulations to add other chemicals to the program as it sees fit.

Biomonitoring is defined as the process of measuring the amount of chemicals in the body by examining blood, urine, body tissue, or breast milk. The results are touted to indicate trends in exposure, validate modeling, support epidemiological studies, identify disproportionately affected communities and assess the effectiveness of current regulations.

This bill establishes an advisory panel to assist DHS and requires completion of pilot programs by January 1, 2008. Moreover, it imposes a fee upon manufacturers or persons who are responsible for identifiable sources of these chemicals to pay for the program, for the reduction or elimination of toxic chemical exposure and for the mitigation of harm caused by the exposure. Retailers are exempt.

The fee program created by this bill would be modeled on the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, the program upheld in the Sinclair Paint decision. That California Supreme Court decision allows the legislature to impose fees on a majority vote so long as the fee is related to addressing the harm related to the activity subject to the fee. CMTA believes these are actually taxes in disguise and should be subject to the 2/3 vote of the legislature.

The bill leaves many facets of the program and the fund collection either poorly defined or undefined. The Board of Equalization has reportedly stated that they neither have the staff nor the mechanisms in place to facilitate the collection of such a fee. Unbridled, this legislation could have a significant impact on California's economy.
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