Category: Smoking

Yes on Prop 29 Goes After Dr. La Donna Porter


No on Prop 29 spokesperson Dr. La Donna Porter

The Yes on California Proposition 29 are now making the doctor appearing in ads opposing the proposition an issue.

She’s the family physician in the doctor’s smock turning up in California’s living rooms on TV spots, declaring the tobacco tax measure on the June ballot a menace.

But now Dr. La Donna Porter is coming under fire from tobacco-control groups and other doctors who are convinced the tobacco doctor — a registered Republican who once campaigned on behalf of a toxic chemical — is in it for the money and is being paid by tobacco companies. Public records show that she’s struggling to save her home from foreclosure and lift herself financially from two personal bankruptcies.

But in an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Porter’s husband defiantly defended her, denying that his wife has been paid for her work against Proposition 29.

“We don’t know anybody in the tobacco industry,” said John Porter from the couple’s home in Wilton, 25 miles from Sacramento. “They haven’t offered any money. And I’ve been with her every step of the way.”

Porter said he was “disgusted” with what he calls a “character assassination” against his wife.

The proponents for the smoking tax, California Proposition 29 have made a misstep here. The physician in the ads is not really an issue, the way the smoking tax money is spent IS.

Here is the video of the ad:

Even if Dr. Porter had received compensation for her participation in the ads, so what? Physicians and dentists are paid all of the time for professional opinions and testimonials.

As long as they are disclosed any payments to Dr. Porter are irrelevant.

Remember folks this is a political ad.

If anything, this attack on the good doctor while mentioning her financial difficulties will elicit sympathy for her position. I wonder who the consultant for the Yes on 29 campaign is?


California Election 2012: No on Proposition 29 – Cigarette Taxes


I, generally, like cigarette taxes since less people will smoke as a result. But, the Los Angeles Times in their editorial today is correct (they get it right once in a while).

What’s to like about taxes? Most people view them at best as a necessary evil to help pay for robust government services — a public benefit. But cigarette taxes are an anomaly. In their case, the tax itself is a public benefit. Proposition 29, which would place a $1 levy on each pack of cigarettes sold in California, would serve the common good by making cigarettes more expensive.

Economists have demonstrated conclusively that taxes on cigarettes are an effective tool for reducing smoking rates, which not only benefits the health of current and potential smokers but clears the air for people who would otherwise be exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoking, the single biggest cause of premature death in the United States, costs California taxpayers billions annually in medical care to treat people with tobacco-related diseases through Medi-Cal, Medicare and other public health programs. And California’s cigarette tax, at 87 cents per pack, is well below the national average of $1.46.

Voters also should be concerned about the lack of accountability under Proposition 29. The nine-member board of the new agency would comprise representatives from three University of California campuses and three of the state’s federally recognized cancer centers, as well as a physician from an academic medical center and two members from advocacy groups. It would have no one representing the public, no one to stand up for the idea that taxpayer money should be spent efficiently and fairly, to ensure that salaries aren’t exorbitant and that money doesn’t get sent out of state, among other things. Although there are rules preventing a board member from voting on a grant application from his or her own organization, there is too much opportunity for mutual hand-washing when it comes to awarding funds. This came up as a criticism of the stem-cell agency when, by 2010, nearly $1 billion had been granted to institutions with seats on the board. The tobacco research agency would be audited annually, but what would be the point? The state would be powerless to change the agency’s ways even if it found serious problems.

Tobacco companies are contributing more than $20 million to the campaign to defeat Proposition 29, outspending the pro-tax campaign — which is supported by bicycling star and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong — by more than 5 to 1. We couldn’t disagree more with their reasons for doing so, and it makes us uncomfortable to agree with them at all, but from our perspective, this initiative takes perfectly good tax money and misspends it; we’d rather see an alternative proposal that hikes the cigarette tax but spends the money more wisely. We recommend a no vote on Proposition 29.

The physician spokesperson in the ads fro the tobacco companies is partially correct. Here is the ad:

But, any increase in taxes should be on a federal level, so there is no bootlegging of cigarettes between the states. Plus, the funds raised should be accountable to a recognized and exisiting government health regulating body.

No on Proposition 29.


CA-Prop 29: Big Tobacco Comes in BIG to Defeat June Anti-Smoking Proposition


No surprise here. The Big Tobacco companies are protecting their customer base.

If there was any uncertainty whether Big Tobacco — the nation’s leading makers of cigarettes — would let this June’s statewide campaign for a tax hike slip by without an all out war… the question was answered quite definitively late Thursday.

That’s when the campaign to defeat Proposition 29 reported almost $9 million in new contributions from the parent company of Philip Morris, USA and R.J. Reynolds.  Add that to the companies’ contribution earlier this year of $12 million, and the effort to kill a new $1-per pack tax on cigarettes is now sitting on a war chest of close to $21 million.

Prop 29, if passed by the voters two months from now, would earmark all of the new tax proceeds for cancer research.

There never was any doubt that the tobacoo companies would spend what it takes to defeat this measure. It is profit protection.

But, remains un-answered to me as how they will spin their campaign on television?

Without a doubt, the supporters of Proposition 29 will have a hard time matching the advertising budget.

However, the chances of passing this measure appear to be very good – at least until the television spots start appearing.


Flap’s California Morning Collection: January 31, 2012


Mission San Diego

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

Today is deadline day in the Capitol.

  • Local Redevelopment Agencies will take their last breaths today. The 2010 law axing the agencies, crafted as part of last year’s budget package, takes effect Feb. 1.
  • Bills introduced in 2011 must clear their house-of-origin today in order to stay alive for the remainder of the two-year session.
  • Candidates for state and federal office face a midnight deadline for filing campaign finance reports. The reports will cover cash raised and spent through Dec. 31, 2011.

On to today’s California headlines:

Three Strikes change falters ASSEMBLY: Bill for ballot proposal to soften law may get another try today.

Some state lawmakers want to ask voters to revise California’s Three Strikes law as a way to reduce prison sentences and save money on corrections, but they’re having a hard time getting the issue through the Legislature.

The Assembly on Monday failed to pass AB327, which would require that a defendant’s third strike be for a serious or violent felony. Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, asked for the bill to be taken up again today, the deadline for each house to pass legislation introduced last year.

“This bill is necessary because the current Three Strikes law has led to many unjust sentences over the past 18 years that are not proportionate to the offense. As an advocate for fair and just society, this reality is quite troubling,” Davis said Monday.

Democratic supporters say the change is needed because many third-strike offenders have been sentenced to dozens of years in prison for petty theft and less serious offenses. Debate is split largely along partisan lines, with Republicans saying the bill dilutes the intent of the 1994 voter-approved law, which was intended to punish repeat offenders.

“This is a grave issue,” said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. “Three Strikes came to pass because repeat, unrehabilitated offenders were preying again and again and again upon our families, our children, the people of our community. And it has worked.”

California Assembly votes to outlaw smoking on hospital campuses

Californians may soon be adding hospital campuses to the list of smoke-free workplaces.

The Assembly passed a bill Monday that would expand current limits on smoking at hospitals to entire campuses. Existing law makes it illegal to smoke in buildings and areas adjacent to entrances. Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) argued that the legislation would not only encourage patients, visitors and employees to quit the habit but protect people against exposure to secondhand smoke.

The bill drew the ire of Republicans who said it was another example of California’s “nanny state” politics. Many hospitals, they said, have already voluntarily banned smoking.

Los Angeles judge blocks state budget cut to Medi-Cal providers

A Los Angeles federal judge has tentatively blocked Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts to doctors and other providers who treat low-income patients.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled today that the state cannot reduce payments by 10 percent to Medi-Cal doctors, dentists, ambulance services and other providers. The tentative decision comes after Snyder previously blocked cuts to hospital-based nursing units and some pharmacists.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers included the 10 percent cut in last year’s budget as a way to save $623 million. They won approval from the Obama administration in late October.

Plaintiffs such as the California Medical Association and the California Dental Association argued that the Medi-Cal cut would reduce access to patients as more providers opt out of the system. The state already pays among the lowest rates in the nation to those who treat low-income patients.

Republican Meg Whitman’s HP likes Democrats

An interesting factoid for the 2012 elections: HP, the Silicon Valley powerhouse run by Republican Meg Whitman, is busy bankrolling Democrats.

Financial disclosure documents on file with the state’s election officer show that of some $48,000 that HP gave directly to political candidates during the last quarter of 2011, about $46,000 went to 18 Democrats and one Republican.

The largest single donation, for $13,000, went to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only statewide official to receive a contribution from HP during the fourth-quarter filing period. Harris is not up for reelection this year.

Only one Republican contender, Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville, received a contribution — $2,000. 

The contributions were detailed in HP’s report on its major donations and independent expenditures.

The other recipients all were Democrats, and most received $1,500 or $2,000, with two reporting higher donations – South San Francisco Assemblyman Jerry Hill at $3,943 for a fundraising event and $3,900 for Assemblyman Michael Allen of Santa Rosa.

Whitman, a billionaire and former top executive at ebay, ran for governor in November 2010 and was defeated by Democrat Jerry Brown, who won with a margin of nearly 9 percent of the vote, or 1.3 million votes.

Enjoy your morning!


Flap’s California Morning Collection: December 1, 2011


Baker, California (where I will be tomorrow on the way to Las Vegas, Nevada)

The California Legislature is not in session.

On to today’s headlines:

Campaign to repeal California death penalty nets nearly $1.2 million

A group seeking to ask California voters to repeal the death penalty has netted nearly $1.2 million in recent weeks to aid its drive to qualify for the 2012 ballot.

The contributions, made to a committee created to fund the proposed ballot measure, were reported this week in campaign finance filings posted on the secretary of state website.

Major donors listed in the report include several California branches of the American Civil Liberties Union ($41,770), Google executive Robert Alan Eustace ($125,000), Hyatt Development Corporation CEO Nicholas Pritzker ($500,000), and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ($125,000).

Jerry Brown to pitch tax plan to voters

In the latest proposed fix for California’s fiscal crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to announce a multibillion-dollar tax initiative in the coming days, asking voters to raise levies on upper-income earners and increase the state’s sales tax by half a cent.

The levies would expire at the end of 2016, said sources with direct knowledge of the plan. The governor’s office has been fine-tuning the tax measure for weeks with its labor allies. It hopes to file language with the attorney general’s office as early as Friday so it can start gathering the signatures needed to place the measure on the November 2012 ballot.

The proposal comes as a host of groups race to qualify tax measures for next year’s ballot, all aimed at preventing deeper cuts to state services. Democrats hope the governor’s backing will help clear the field and avoid a tax glut on the November ballot.

After the state enacted an austere state budget this year, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said California is likely to be $3.7 billion short of balancing its books in the current fiscal year. That probably will trigger a new round of reductions that could mean a shorter school year in some districts and millions of dollars slashed from public universities, child-care programs and services for the disabled. Even then, California could face a $13-billion shortfall in the next fiscal year, the analyst said.

Brown’s plan, developed in a series of closed-door meetings between his senior staff,  labor leaders and representatives of Democratic legislative leaders, would add an extra 1% tax on individual income above $250,000 a year. Individuals making between $300,000 and $500,000 would be taxed an additional 1.5% for that income. And those making more than $500,000 would see an additional 2% hike.

Those hikes, coupled with the sales tax increase, could raise about $7 billion.

The Crowding Field of 2012 Tax Initiatives

California voters have long had a reputation as anti-tax, a reputation that explains why so many proposals either fizzle before ever making it to the ballot… or are roundly rejected on Election Day.

But the November 2012 ballot appears poised to put that theory to the test, with an ever growing number of initiatives designed to raise revenues to pay for deficit-shrunk government services.

Two distinct proposals both popped up today, following the recent buzz over a $10 billion tax proposal crafted by a group of prominent Californians. And they proceed an expected revenue proposal from Governor Jerry Brown, one which everyone assumes will be unveiled in the very near future.

The first of the new initiatives filed with the Attorney General’s office for formal title and summary is a tax increase earmarked exclusively for K-12 schools. Its proponent is attorney Molly Munger, a Californian probably most notable for her financial pedigree. Her father, Charles Munger, is a longtime top associate of billionaire financier Warren Buffett; her brother, Charles Munger, Jr., is best known for bankrolling the two successful initiatives that wrested redistricting away from the Legislature.

California rapped for low spending on anti-smoking programs

California had one of the nation’s first state-financed anti-smoking programs, but it is now being criticized by a national health coalition for its relatively low level of spending.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says in a new nationwide report that California ranks 22nd in the nation by spending just 15.8 percent of what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends on smoking prevention.

The state’s spending on anti-tobacco programs, $70 million a year, is financed entirely by a special increase in cigarette taxes in 1999. The coalition is critical of California and other states for not spending more from a massive, multibillion-dollar national settlement of a lawsuit against tobacco companies. The state is now receiving $1.7 billion a year from that settlement but, like most other states, is using the money for general purposes.

The Tobacco-Free Kids group, a coalition of health and children’s advocacy groups, contends that 13.8 percent of California’s high school students smoke. However, smoking has plummeted in California in recent years to the second lowest level of any state, 12.8 percent of adults. Only Utah, at 9.8 percent, is lower.

The issue is likely to be rejoined next year because a measure has qualified for the June primary ballot that would increase California’s cigarette tax by $1 per pack to finance cancer research and anti-smoking programs.

Enjoy your morning!