BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1767
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          Date of Hearing:   April 7, 2014

                       ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
                                Wesley Chesbro, Chair
                 AB 1767 (Holden) - As Introduced:  February 14, 2014
           
          SUBJECT  :  Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy: property  
          destruction: fines 

           SUMMARY  :  Increases the maximum fines imposed for specific types  
          of crimes conducted on lands owned or managed by the Santa  
          Monica Mountains Conservancy (Conservancy).  Requires fine  
          revenues to pay the costs of repairs and clean up related to the  
          damage caused by these crimes, with the remaining funds to going  
          to the Conservancy for resource conservation and park grants.

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Establishes the Conservancy within the Natural Resources  
            Agency to acquire and protect lands within the Santa Monica  
            Mountains Zone, which is an area of approximately 650,000  
            acres, generally encompassing the mountain areas of eastern  
            Ventura County, western Los Angeles County, and the mountain  
            areas surrounding the San Fernando, La Crescenta, and Santa  
            Clarita Valleys.

          2)Creates a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than  
            $1,000, or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than  
            six months, or both that fine and imprisonment for  
            unauthorized dumping on property owned or managed by the  
            Conservancy.

          3)Creates a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than  
            $1,000, or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than  
            six months, or both that fine and imprisonment for injuring,  
            defacing, or destroying any property owned or managed by the  
            Conservancy.

          4)Creates a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county  
            jail not exceeding 90 days, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000,  
            or by both that fine and imprisonment for violation of the  
            posted conditions of use on any property owned or managed by  
            the Conservancy.  Authorizes the judge, in considering the  
            recommendation of the prosecuting attorney, to reduce the  
            charged offense from a misdemeanor to an infraction.    








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            Requires any person convicted of the offense after such a  
            reduction to be punished by a fine of not less $100, nor more  
            than $500.

           THIS BILL  :  

          1)Increases the $1,000 maximum fine for each misdemeanor  
            referenced above to $1,500.  When a misdemeanor is reduced to  
            an infraction, increases the $100 minimum fine to $250 and the  
            $500 maximum fine to $750.

          2)Requires revenues from these fines to be deposited into the  
            Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Fund (Conservancy Fund),  
            upon appropriation, to pay the costs of any necessary property  
            repairs or clean up related to violations, with any remaining  
            funds to be used by the Conservancy to award specified  
            resource conservation and park grants.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :

           1)Author Statement  .  According to the author:

               Fine levels for damage to property or the environment  
               have not increased at the Santa Monica Mountains  
               Conservancy in over a decade.  In the intervening ten  
               years, state budget cuts required the Conservancy to  
               increasingly rely upon Bond funds approved through  
               various state ballot measures.  Many of these funds  
               contain strict limits on the use of their proceeds.   
               Because of these limits the Conservancy is limited in  
               the scope of funding for vital local projects.

               AB 1767 seeks to provide the Conservancy increased  
               revenue and flexibility by increasing the fines and  
               using the new revenue to first pay for the repairs of  
               any damage to the Conservancy property and then to  
               help fund grants.  The grant assistance is designed to  
               provide the Conservancy additional funding for  
               projects that do not fully meet the strict criteria  
               defined in a state ballot measure.

           2)Background  .  The Conservancy was established by the California  
            State Legislature in 1980.  Since that time, it has helped to  








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            preserve over 69,000 acres of parkland in both wilderness and  
            urban settings, and improved more than 114 public recreational  
            facilities throughout Southern California.  Additionally, it  
            has given grants to nonprofit organizations for educational  
            and interpretation programs that have served hundreds of  
            thousands of children and other park visitors.
             
             In 1984, the Legislature established criminal penalties  
            specific to Conservancy property to address issues with  
            dumping, property damage, and violating posted rules.  The  
            maximum fine for each penalty was $500.  Eighteen years later,  
            in 2002, the Legislature increased the maximum fines to  
            $1,000.  

            The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA),  
            which is a local government public entity established in 1985  
            pursuant to the Joint Powers Act, manages and provides ranger  
            services on Conservancy property.  The MRCA is who would  
            typically cite people for violations under the Conservancy's  
            statutes.

            According to the author's office, the most common types of  
            violations are:   a) dogs off leash and dogs in prohibited  
            areas; b) unauthorized barbeques; c) cigarette and marijuana  
            smoking in no-smoking areas; d) alcohol drinking; and, e)  
            unauthorized commercial uses, such as unpermitted filming,  
            photography, and dog walking services.

            According to Conservancy staff, there are a number of cases  
            that involve graffiti, property destruction, and dumping.  In  
            some of these cases, the MRCA is able to identify the  
            responsible party and issue a citation.  

           3)Increasing the Maximum Fine Limits  .  As stated above, the  
            maximum fine for each penalty under the Conservancy's statutes  
            was $500 in 1984.  Eighteen years later, in 2002, the  
            Legislature increased the maximum fine limits to $1,000, which  
            was a 100 percent increase.  Now, twelve years later, this  
            bill proposes to increase these maximum fine limits to $1,500,  
            which is only a 50 percent increase.  Using the U.S. Bureau of  
            Labor Statistics' inflation calculator, $1,000 in 2002 is the  
            equivalent to $1,305.06 in 2014; therefore, this bill would  
            increase the maximum fine limits by just under $200 more than  
            what an inflation adjustment would call for. 









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           4)Bounty Hunter Concern  .  This bill will send fine revenues to  
            the Conservancy Fund rather than the state's General Fund.   
            This may create an incentive for the Conservancy to implement  
            overly strict rule enforcement in order to generate revenue.   
            If this was to occur, there may be the unintended consequence  
            of deterring law abiding citizens from visiting Conservancy  
            property (which, in general, would be a bad thing).  It should  
            be noted that this bill is authored sponsored, and while the  
            Conservancy now supports the bill, they did not develop it.   
            It appears that the author is simply being proactive in trying  
            to find new ways to help the Conservancy.  No impression has  
            been given to the committee's staff that there is some  
            nefarious plan by the Conservancy to fund itself by ramping up  
            its citation program.

            However, to assuage some of the potential bounty hunter  
            concerns while also helping the Conservancy address costs  
            associated with violations,  the author and the committee may  
            wish to consider amendments that only allow the Conservancy to  
            receive fine revenues for violations involving unauthorized  
            dumping and for violations related to injuring, defacing, or  
            destroying Conservancy property.  Fines collected for  
            violating posted conditions (e.g., stop signs) would not go to  
            the Conservancy.  The MRCA has been publically criticized for  
            putting up stop sign cameras "on rustic scenic drives and  
            out-of-the-way parking lots" that have led to the collection  
            of millions of dollars in fine revenues  .


           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

           Opposition 
           
          None on File
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Mario DeBernardo / NAT. RES. / (916)  
          319-2092 












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