Category: Tobacco

Jun 22 2012

California Proposition 29 Tobacco Tax Rejected by Voters

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No on Prop 29 spokesperson Dr. La Donna Porter

The vote was close, but the election is over and California Proposition 29 has failed at the polls.

An attempt to levy a $1-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes was narrowly rejected by voters amid a high-stakes campaign in which the tobacco industry and its allies spent some $47 million to kill the measure, according to an Associated Press projection.

The secretary of state’s office reported that the tally for Proposition 29, out of some 4.9 million votes cast, was about 2.52 million opposed and 2.49 million in favor, a difference of less than 30,000 votes.

The vote count on Proposition 29, which was sponsored by a cancer-research coalition, has been close since the June 5 primary election as the returns were tallied. About 100,000 votes remain to be counted.

In California’s economic climate, voters are just not willing to approve increased taxation – no matter how noble or altrusitic the cause.

Here is a map of the California Proposition 29 votes by California County.

I am positive the supporters will be back with a revised proposal in 2014.

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May 24 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: May 24, 2012

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Santa Monica, California

Good Thursday morning!

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

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

Approval of Gov. Jerry Brown slips in public opinion poll

The honeymoon is ending for Gov. Jerry Brown.

For the first time in a major California poll since Brown took office, a plurality of likely voters disapproves of the job he is doing, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday.

The margin is pencil-thin – 43 percent disapprove while 42 percent approve – but follows more than a year of relatively favorable marks for the Democratic governor. In April, Brown’s job approval rating among likely voters was 47 percent.

Brown’s dip in public opinion was registered in the days immediately after his announcement last week that California’s budget deficit had grown to $15.7 billion, up from $9.2 billion in January.

Prop 29 support plummets, new poll finds

If anyone ever tells you that money doesn’t matter in California politics, show them the results of the new statewide poll on voter support for Proposition 29.

The initiative — which would add an additional $1 tax per pack of cigarettes and use the money for cancer research — is still ahead in the new poll… but not by much.

The poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds that 53 percent of those surveyed now say they’ll vote for Prop 29.  Which sounds good, until you consider that in March 67 percent supported the measure.

Meantime, opposition has gone up from 30 percent in March to 42 percent now.

Put it all together and Prop 29 — which was winning by a whopping 37 points two months ago — is now only ahead by 11 points.

The big change since March: the anti Prop 29 bonanza of television ads.  Tobacco companies ponied up some $40 million to kill the initiative, which gives them about a 7-1 advantage in campaign cash over Prop 29 supporters like the American Cancer Society and cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Special-interest spending floods Cailfornia races in new political landscape

As federal super PACs continue to pour money into the presidential and congressional contests, state-level independent committees are spending big to influence the outcome in California’s legislative races.

Independent expenditure committees, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts, are active in more than a third of state races on the June 5 ballot, spending more than $7 million to support and oppose candidates.

The spending, which will grow as groups ramp up mail pieces, radio and television ads and in-person appeals by paid staff in the final days of the primary campaign, is expected to easily exceed the more than $7.4 million in independent spending the Fair Political Practices Commission tracked in the 2010 legislative primary contests.

While a U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door to unlimited special-interest spending in federal races in 2010, the use of independent committees became the norm in California state elections a decade earlier.

Observers say the number of competitive races this year, a product of redistricting, a new primary process and turnover in the Legislature, is driving numbers up.

LAUSD will pay $200,000 settlement over alleged sexual harassment by former Superintendent Ramon Cortines

Los Angeles Unified will pay $200,000 and give lifetime health benefits to settle a sexual-harassment allegation filed by a facilities executive against retired Superintendent Ramon Cortines, officials said Wednesday.

Scot Graham, who has worked in the Facilities Division for 12 years and is now director of leasing and asset management, claims that Cortines made unwanted sexual advances during a weekend spent at the superintendent’s second home in Kern County in July 2010.

Graham’s attorneys notified the district in March – nearly a year after Cortines retired – that he intended to file a sexual-harassment claim.

Hoping to avoid potentially expensive litigation, the school board met three times in executive session before voting 4-3 on Tuesday to approve the deal.

The settlement gives Graham $200,000 cash, plus lifetime health benefits that officials valued at roughly $250,000. In exchange, the 56-year-old Graham agreed to retire from his $150,000-a-year job on May 31.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters’ Daily video: Will independents thrive on June 5?

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May 07 2012

Yes on Prop 29 Goes After Dr. La Donna Porter

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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?

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Apr 23 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 23, 2012

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Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

Good Monday morning!

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

Remember: Friday is the last day for policy committees to pass fiscal bills introduced in their house. So, there will be some action around the Capitol this week.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

Cost of public retiree health care soars in California

As Stockton contemplates a bankruptcy filing, cities, counties and school districts throughout California are grappling with the same issue that has led the delta port city to the brink of insolvency – soaring costs for retiree health care.

San Francisco, which once allowed its public employees to qualify for full retiree medical benefits after working just five years, is projected to pay $153 million in retiree health care costs this year, about 5 percent of the city’s general fund.

The Ventura County city of Thousand Oaks capped its contributions for retiree health care at $435 a month but still faces a $12.6 million unfunded liability for the perk, an amount equal to about 18 percent of the city’s general fund budget.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district, promises 100 percent lifetime health benefits to retirees, their spouses and dependents. It now faces $10.3 billion in long-term unfunded liabilities for the benefit, 1 1/2 times the district’s annual budget.

And at the state level, retiree health care costs have ballooned from $560 million annually a decade ago to a projected $1.7 billion in the coming fiscal year, almost 2 percent of general fund spending.
The benefits’ costs are expected to double for the state and local governments over the next 10 years.


Action slow so far on Gov. Brown’s pension reforms

It’s been six months since Gov. Jerry Brown put forward his proposals to make the public pension system more affordable, yet action on his 12-point plan has been nearly imperceptible.

That has led Republican lawmakers to accuse the Democrats who control the Legislature of stalling. Democrats acknowledge the slow pace, yet say they are making progress and intend to enact reforms before the session ends in August.

“It’s not as fast as I would like, but it’s complicated,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said this week during an appearance before the Sacramento Press Club.

He said Democrats have an obligation to deliver pension reform, particularly as they will ask voters in November to approve hikes to the income and sales taxes. But he also said they have “a different take” on parts of the governor’s plan.

Brown’s reform packaged called for increasing the retirement age to 67 for new, non-public safety employees and having local and state government workers pay more toward their pensions and retiree health care. Among other changes, the governor would put new workers in a hybrid plan that includes a 401(k)-style vehicle.

Frustrated that Brown’s reform package had not been translated into individual bills, Republican lawmakers earlier this year did it themselves. They submitted a legislative package that copied Brown’s 12-point plan and asked that it be heard by the Conference Committee on Public Employee Pensions, which has held five hearings throughout the state reviewing retirement benefits for public employees.

‘No party preference’ is new political flavor in California

Congressional candidate Linda Parks isn’t one for conventional choices.

As she tells voters in a recent television ad, her favorite ice cream flavor is not chocolate or vanilla, but the nuts-and-marshmallow-loaded Rocky Road.

And her chosen party preference on the June 5 ballot?

“None.”

“I’ve had longtime supporters tell me, ‘I don’t even know what party you are.’ And I like that,” said Parks, a Ventura County supervisor who has been both a member and, more recently, a punching bag of both the Republican and the Democratic parties. “I like the fact that they can’t peg me as one party or the other.”

Parks is one of 36 candidates with “no party preference” running for state and federal office in California this year, the first time the option is available for primary candidates.

Her candidacy for the 26th Congressional District is getting attention because of the chance she’ll succeed in becoming the first independent elected to the House of Representatives since 2004.

No-party-preference candidates make up just a fraction of the more than 500 people running for state and federal office on the June ballot. But some observers say a win – or even a good show – by Parks or other no-party-preference candidates could pave the way for more independents to run for elected office in California.

“In this climate with the tea party and the Occupy movement and the anti-incumbent sentiment, if it turns out that that does translate into ‘no-party-preference’ candidates winning, we can expect to see all sorts of people shedding their party affiliation in the future,” said Kimberly Nalder, an associate professor in the California State University, Sacramento, Department of Government.

Tobacco marketing targets low-income, black youth, researchers say

Tobacco marketing is targeting California’s low-income and African American youth, according to researchers who examined advertising throughout the state.

Academic researchers funded by the state’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program found that there was greater visibility of menthol cigarette advertising at retailers near high schools where there are larger African American student populations.

According to the most recent statistics issued by the Federal Trade Commission, the tobacco industry spent $10 billion on marketing in 2008.

“There is a systematic targeting (of disadvantaged communities) by the tobacco industry, which is an extraordinary public health problem,” said Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who presented the research at a legislative briefing in Sacramento last week. “The addition of menthol to cigarettes makes it easier to smoke and more difficult to quit.”

Henriksen’s research [PDF], published last year, found that as the proportion of black students increased at a California high school, so did the share of both menthol-related advertising and Newport brand promotions at nearby retailers. The study looked at all cigarette advertising, but specifically analyzed promotions and price discounts for Newport and Marlboro, two of the most popular brands with underage smokers, researchers said.

Enjoy your morning and here is Dan Walters discussing California unemployment numbers:

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Apr 06 2012

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

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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.

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