TOBACCO ROUNDUP: Judge Reworks Measure O Wording
In the continuing battle over Ventura County's tobacco settlement, a County Superior Court judge last week struck down some "key statements" in Measure O, the Community Memorial Hospital ballot initiative that would divert the county's share of the tobacco settlement to private hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reports. CMH took the measure to court, alleging that the county failed to write an impartial analysis of the proposal. In three separate rulings, Judge Henry Walsh altered several words and statements appearing on the ballot, saying that some of the original phrases were "false and misleading" (Kelly, 8/31). For CMH, the "most significant change" was to the title summary, the section of the ballot that outlines the purpose of the measure in 50 words or less. Walsh approved CMH's request that the phrase "for health care and health related purposes" be used to describe the measure's intent. However, in a ruling favoring the county, Walsh left the analysis and financial impact statement alone, even though both parts included some phrases CMH had asked be removed (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 8/31). Walsh also refused to change wording indicating that if Measure O passed, the county would be forced to cut spending by $18.4 million. Both CMH and county officials claimed victory after the ruling (Los Angeles Times, 8/31).
Measure H Stays
In other tobacco settlement news last week, an Orange County Superior Court judge rejected the county's motion to keep Measure H, an initiative that would force the county to spend 80% of its $30 million plus annual share of the tobacco settlement on health care programs, off the ballot. Although Judge Jack Mandel ruled in favor of the county's argument that the initiative violated California's constitution "by dictating future spending decisions," he was hesitant to "set a precedent ... that could be made moot" if voters reject the measure. Mandel also noted that, if approved, the initiative would not take effect until July, leaving the county enough time to "mount a new challenge." The three county supervisors who opposed Measure H -- Charles Smith, Cynthia Coad and Jim Silva -- have offered an alternative proposal, Measure G, which would only allocate 42% of the settlement money to health care programs (Reed, Orange County Register, 8/31).
Use the Money for Health?
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors have offered a plan that would allocate most of the county's share of the tobacco settlement toward health care. Sixty-two percent of the $214.8 million the county expects to receive from the settlement would help fund health services, including a $2 million trust fund to establish a health care system for the county's estimated 200,000 uninsured residents. Officials said the trust fund would serve as "seed money" that would attract additional funds from the government and other private sources. The final goal is a "minimum $10 million endowment" that would help cover people who "fall into the gap between Medi-Cal and private insurance." In addition, the county would create another fund, totaling $94.5 million over 15 years, for health, youth and tobacco-education funds. County Executive Terry Schutten said, "We tried to balance the recommendations with an emphasis on health. The goal is to have the largest impact possible on the entire community" (Davila, Sacramento Bee, 8/25).