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The End of Acquiescence
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The Creation of AB 816

Isenberg had generally been able to win consensus over the expenditure of Proposition 99 funds in prior years. In January 1994 he telephoned ALA lobbyist Tony Najera to discuss the reauthorization. Isenberg wanted Najera's viewpoint on whether he should again chair the conference committee that would handle Proposition 99 reauthorization through a bill named AB 816. According to Najera,

Phil Isenberg called me personally. I can just remember the day so clearly in the first week in January. He said, “Tony, I've been encouraged to carry the ball and to chair a conference committee and to carry the bill on reauthorization. What do you think I ought to do?” I encouraged him to do it because I remembered my days with AB 75, that he was in fact one of our champions. He also had been the chief engineer in previous reauthorizations which I thought were a fair process. The process really really broke down during the AB 99 process and it was never recaptured for AB 816. So for me I encouraged Isenberg…and I said, “I think what you need to do is have a conference call with me, CMA, Western Center [for Law and Poverty],” and I did. That was to me the turning point in terms of what role I saw he was going to want to play for this.[5]

According to Najera, Isenberg was willing to chair the committee if there was “agreement amongst all of us,” which meant that the principals agreed to the status quo.

When interviewed later, several of the principals had differing views of what this “agreement” had been. To Isenberg, “status quo” meant that everyone agreed to use the process that had been used with AB 75 and AB 99—a conference committee and behind-the-scenes deal-making.[6] Thus, while “status quo” also likely meant continued dwindling of funds for Health Education and Research programs and another “insider” deal, this deal had not been explicitly struck. When asked if she perceived that a deal had been made early with Isenberg, Elizabeth McNeil, the CMA's chief lobbyist on Proposition 99 in 1994, said she thought the status quo which had been agreed to included the maintenance of the AB 99 funding pattern. According to McNeil,


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We had lots of meetings with Tony [Najera] and John [Miller], the hospitals, us, and the Western Center about Prop 99 reauthorization. At the time, we all felt going in that pretty much trying to do status quo and make sure it was reauthorized was kind of the program. And later on, the Lung Association and others decided no, they didn't want to fund CHDP. They wanted it out and they wanted increases for their programs. So we do feel like that was not the plan that we all went in with when we asked Isenberg to sponsor the bill. That's strongly how I felt about where we went in. …I don't know if there was miscommunication. It wasn't articulated strongly where his groups were really coming from. I think he [Najera]'s sensitive too because he was part of the group that authorized the original CHDP expenditure and was criticized for doing that, and I think was really feeling that criticism. So the tune changed and it was a problem amongst all of us.[7] [emphasis added]

The ALA's name appears with the CMA, California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (CAHHS), and the Western Center for Law and Poverty as supporting the version of AB 816 that the Senate and Assembly voted into the Conference Committee. The bill extended the sunsets for both the program authorizations and the program appropriations to July 1, 1996, and also authorized the expenditures from the Research Account.[8] Senator Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), the longtime champion of the Health Education Account and John Miller's boss, voted for AB 816 at this stage.

According to Najera, he and Miller had agreed to a quiet strategy of letting the Legislature make its decision and then taking the issue to court. He said, “We were not demanding [full] 20% [funding for Health Education] initially. We were prepared to do what we had to do in order to get it out of here and take it to the courts, and let the battle be there and not in here.”[9] The voluntaries hoped that Wilson would not win reelection and that a new Democratic governor would be more sympathetic, ignoring the fact that opposition to the anti-tobacco education and research programs in the Legislature was spearheaded by Speaker Willie Brown, a Democrat. In any event, Wilson won reelection later that year.


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