ORANGE COUNTY: Board Approves Second Ballot Initiative for Tobacco Funds
In another twist in the fight over how to spend Orange County's $30 million annual tobacco settlement, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a ballot measure that would allocate 40% of the funds to paying off the county's debt, the Los Angeles Times reports. Proposed by County Treasurer John Moorlach, the initiative, called Measure G, also would earmark 42% of the money for health care and the remaining 18% for public safety programs. Measure G was approved even though supervisors are currently challenging the constitutionality of a similar initiative, called Measure H. Sponsored by a group of county medical and community health advocates, Measure H would allocate 80% of the tobacco settlement to health care and antitobacco programs. Supervisors Charles Smith, Jim Silva and Cynthia Coad opposed Measure H, arguing that it is unconstitutional because it "limits the power of future elected boards" to determine how to spend the funds (Morin, 8/9). Those three supervisors are the same officials who approved Measure G for the November ballot, although it also dictates future spending. They contend that voters "need more than one choice on how to spend the tobacco money" (Larsen, Orange County Register, 8/9). County Counsel Laurence Watson told supervisors Tuesday that Measure G is as flawed as Measure H. Watson said, "I feel strongly that Measure H is unconstitutional and that Measure G would be equally unconstitutional." The Orange County Superior Court is scheduled to rule on Measure H Aug. 30.
Supporters of Measure H criticized the board's move (Los Angeles Times, 8/9). Accusing the officials of "betraying their principles," Phillip Falcetti of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said, "We must question the integrity of the board of supervisors that voted to sue (Measure H) and then turned around and voted to place their own measure on the ballot" (Larsen, Orange County Register, 8/9). Michele Revelle of the Orange County Medical Association blasted the supervisors for trying to use the money to pay down the county's debt. She said, "You're hijacking health care dollars to pay for the past mistakes of the board. This money is about more than a debt. It's about a debt to society" (Los Angeles Times, 8/9).