State Briefs

Saturday September 21, 2002

Sick sea otter to get MRI exam at human hospital 

SALINAS — A wild sea otter suffering grand mal seizures successfully underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam — believed to be the first administered to a sea otter — at a hospital for humans Friday. 

The female otter, which is between 1 and 2 years old, rode into the examination room at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System wrapped in ice on a gurney Adrienne Laurent, a hospital spokeswoman. 

The otter, which does not have a name, has been at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program since being found stranded at San Simeon Beach, south of Big Sur, on July 17. 

The otter is believed to be suffering from domoic acid poisoning, which otters can contract by eating shellfish that fed on toxic plankton. The toxin is suspected of killing hundreds of animals, from sea lions to dolphins to sea birds, along California’s coast this year. 

The creature has not responded to treatment, and veterinarians believe domoic acid poisoning may have caused brain damage leading to the seizures. 

If the otter does not show improvement over the next week or so, it likely will have to be euthanized. 

Davis cancels fund-raiser  

in face of criticism 

LOS ANGELES — Gov. Gray Davis canceled a controversial fund-raiser with bullet train advocates a day after he authorized a vote on a $9.9-billion high-speed rail bond. 

“We’ve always had a strict line between discussing policy and our finance events ... under the circumstances, the governor didn’t think it was appropriate,” campaign Press Secretary Roger Salazar said, less than two hours before the Friday evening event was to begin. 

The fund-raiser was planned at the Santa Clara home of Rod Diridon, Davis-appointed chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority. 

Republican challenger Bill Simon blasted Davis over the fund-raiser at a morning press conference in Santa Monica. After the cancellation, he went to Diridon’s home, set up a podium outside the closed door and called for an investigation of Davis’ fund-raising. 

“Davis seeks to exploit the power of his signature to further his campaign contributions,” Simon said. 

Judge bars enforcement of slate-mailer disclosure  

SACRAMENTO — A federal judge Friday blocked enforcement of a slate-mailer campaign disclosure requirement imposed by California voters when they passed Proposition 34 in 2000. 

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton granted a preliminary injunction sought by four slate-mailer publishers, saying the plaintiffs had shown a “high likelihood” the requirement violated the First Amendment. 

“With the November 2002 elections on the immediate horizon, absent an injunction, plaintiffs will have to choose between self-censorship or the real possibility of an enforcement action” by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Karlton said. 

“This harm outweighs any that would be suffered (by the FPPC) or the public by the issuance of a preliminary injunction.” 

Proposition 34 was mainly about limiting the size of campaign contributions to state candidates, but it included a provision requiring slate mailers resembling a communication from a political party to state in bold letters if voter positions advocated by the mailers differ from those of the party. 

Slate mailers are brochures sent to voters advocating positions on candidates or ballot measures. Candidates frequently pay to be listed on the mailers. 

The FPPC, charged with enforcing Proposition 34, said the disclosure provision is needed so that voters aren’t tricked into thinking that the mailers come from a political party. 

But the publishers argued that the Proposition 34 disclosure language takes up valuable space and violates their free-speech rights. 

They said they would continue to use a previously required disclosure requirement that says the mailers were not published by an official party organization. 

Sigrid Bathen, a spokeswoman for the FPPC, said commission officials were studying Karlton’s decision and had no comment.