ORANGE COUNTY: Plans to Scrap Tobacco Settlement Ballot Initiative Under Fire
Orange County Supervisor Cynthia Coad last week drew the ire of community health advocates after she proposed removing from the November ballot a health care initiative that would require 80% of the county's $30 million annual tobacco settlement to be spent on health programs, the Orange County Register reports. The initiative has the backing of 115,000 county residents. Coad contends that the plan violates the state Constitution because it dictates the board's spending habits. However, legal experts questioned Coad's reasoning. Robert Fellmuth, a specialist in public-interest law at the University of San Diego, said, "It's not in the board's purview to make a constitutional decision." UCLA election-law expert Daniel Lowenstein added, "As a general rule, measures go on the ballot. You challenge it later." Even the county Registrar of Voters Rosalyn Lever expressed skepticism about the board's authority to remove a measure from public vote. State Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) and Orange County Medical Association spokesperson Michele Revelle warned that any effort to remove the initiative from the fall ballot would result in immediate legal action. Coad compared her proposal to a similar plan in Ventura County, where supervisors last month voted to block a ballot initiative that would earmark all of the county's tobacco windfall for private hospitals. But Dunn said Coad's parallel was an "apples-and- oranges" comparison because Orange County's initiative would direct funds to county facilities. Supervisors will vote on Coad's proposal at Thursday's board meeting (Reed, 7/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.