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Changes in the Legislature

Not only would the health groups' change in approach have its effects, but the fate of the governor's budget in the Legislature would be different this year because the Legislature had changed too. The Republicans had taken control of the Assembly in the 1994 elections by one vote, thanks in part to a massive $125,000 contribution that Philip Morris made to Republican Steve Kuykendall (R-Long Beach) the weekend before the election, which helped him defeat incumbent Democrat Betty Carnette.[12] By that time, the tobacco industry had shifted from giving campaign contributions in a bipartisan manner to favoring the Republicans. During the 1993-1994 election cycle, 45 percent of the contributions went to the Republicans; by 1995-1996 the share had shifted to 56 percent.

On April 24, 1996, Senators Watson, Hayden, and Petris, three of the strongest advocates for tobacco control in the Senate, wrote a long memorandum to Senator Bill Lockyer, the Senate's president pro tem and a senior Democrat in the Legislature. The subject of the memo was the Democratic “Caucus Position on Tobacco Issues,” and the senators argued that it was not only good policy, but good politics for the Democrats to embrace tobacco control:

Tobacco regulation, a long-standing and contentious political issue, has assumed even greater prominence in recent months, and gives every indication of continuing to hold the media and the public's interest. We would like to encourage the Democratic Caucus to assume a much more aggressive attitude against tobacco. There are sound policy reasons for such a reassessment of our position, but there are also equally sound political reasons for such a change.

… Control of tobacco is morally the best policy. It is also a popular issue consistent with Democratic principals [sic], and an issue with every possibility of becoming an electoral wedge. We believe the benefits to Democrats in terms of the public good will substantially outweigh the anticipated loss of tobacco support.[14] [emphasis added]

In John Miller's view, the shift in tobacco industry campaign contributions to the Republicans was the key factor that got the Democrats lining up to support the Proposition 99 programs. He commented, “What moved them as a body wasn't our rhetoric or the public's interest or the public's wishes clearly expressed and apparent to everyone. It was the stupid move by the industry in terms of donations.”[9]

The new Republican leadership in the Assembly was clear about its pro-tobacco sympathies. Curtis Pringle (R-Garden Grove), who became the speaker of the Assembly on January 5, 1996, accepted $17,250 in tobacco industry campaign contributions in the election cycle from 1995 through the March 1996 primaries; this amount ballooned to a total of $105,750 after he became speaker.[15][16] Pringle believed that “some of the legislative changes [to limit tobacco] swung the pendulum too far in one direction.”[17] The chair of the Assembly Health Committee passed to Brett Granlund (R-Yucaipa). In the 1995-1996 period, he accepted $31,750 in tobacco industry campaign contributions and described himself as “a free-enterprise, no-tax smoker. It doesn't matter if I'm chairing the Health Committee. Those [anti-smoking] people don't have a right to tell everybody else how to live.”[16] A Los Angeles Times editorial saw the Republicans as a “Whole New Pack of Buddies for the Cigarette Industry.”[18]

The Democrats also had an important leadership change. Willie Brown, the longtime speaker of the Assembly when it was controlled by the Democrats, left the Assembly in January 1996 to become mayor of San Francisco. By then, Brown had accepted $635,472 in campaign contributions, more than any other legislator in the country, including members of Congress from tobacco-growing states.[16] Brown had been a powerful presence and used his power as speaker to protect the tobacco industry's interests.

Assembly Member Richard Katz (D-Panorama City) replaced Brown as the Democratic minority leader. In stark contrast to Brown, Katz was a longtime supporter of tobacco control and had only taken $5,500 in tobacco industry campaign contributions, none of them since 1991.[15][19] Katz specifically rejected the claims that the Proposition 99 diversions were made because of fiscal necessity: “In terms of the overall budget, it's not a lot of money. …I don't know who came up with it; it was a very very clever strategy that helps big tobacco under the guise of providing indigent health care. …The budget was a convenient issue for them.”[20] As Adams observed, “The real hero this year was Richard Katz. Without a doubt. …Since he's the Democratic floor leader, he's got a lot of loyalty from the other Democratic members on both sides of the house, so that was really good. …it was like they'd all had this conversion, some sort of `Come to Jesus meeting' must have taken place in the California State Capitol because they were all saying how wonderful they thought Prop 99 was.”[5] Katz's ascendancy to the leadership greatly reduced the likelihood that the Assembly could muster a four-fifths vote to divert Proposition 99 money, regardless of what the Republicans wanted to do. This fact fundamentally changed the political dynamics surrounding Proposition 99 in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, the Democrats still controlled the Senate, and a shift in attitude toward Proposition 99 diversions appeared to be occurring there, too. Senator Mike Thompson (D-Santa Rosa) chaired the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, which meant that his position on Proposition 99 was also important. According to Diane Van Maren from Thompson's office, “Mike made it very clear he was not going to vote for a redirection to that level and that we thought that we needed to talk about transitioning some of these programs and using some General Fund monies, in a prudent manner. …Mike was very well aware of the increase in adolescent smoking and thought that if we had the opportunity, we should start using the Health Education monies again and more fully to mitigate that.”[21]

Another change was the decision of Assembly Member Phil Isenberg (D-Sacramento) not to be involved in Proposition 99 reauthorization. Isenberg said, “I'm bored with it, I don't want to do it anymore. I've done it three cycles. I've done enough. I've got other things to do.”[22] Isenberg's absence meant that the dynamic of the previous authorization efforts would be disrupted, which was potentially advantageous for the tobacco control advocates.

A final major change in the Legislature, according to Richard Katz, was the effect of term limits. Katz felt that they helped the Proposition 99 Health Education and Research Accounts:

One of the things with term limits is you have a whole bunch of members here who did not vote for that compromise, didn't go through that budget fight. So they said, “How could you do that? Don't you understand, you can't do that now the courts have ruled?” So you lose the historical context that that all took place in and without saying that's good or bad, they bring a different set of criteria to the evaluation. I also think that the folks who are elected now are much more anti-smoking than the group that was here ten years ago.[20]

In January lobbyists from the three voluntary health organizations—Najera, Knepprath, Adams, and Renken—met with Katz to sound out his views on the Health Education and Research Accounts. They proposed several authors for the Proposition 99 reauthorization bill, but Katz decided to carry the bill to restore Proposition 99 himself. He also agreed to let individual members vote their conscience on the bills rather than make this a leadership issue, as it had been in AB 816 and SB 493. When asked why he decided to carry the bill, he said, “I like fights. I like fighting with people that are arrogant.”[20] He went on to explain,

Someone needed to step out of the chaos and do it. When we sat around and talked about who was in a position to do it, it made the most sense for me to do it just because of what I'd done on the issue before. …We also saw this as a potential issue that could be an “us versus them.” We knew the public was on the side of the Prop 99s of the world and that Republicans for the most part were much more beholden to tobacco companies than Democrats, even though Democrats have had their fair share over the years. I knew that Philip Morris was looking to underwrite a huge piece of the Republican convention in San Diego. …So there were good political reasons for doing it also.[20]

Knepprath understood Katz's political motives: “We were going to concede to him as the author of the bill his ability to do what he wanted, but I think it was at that meeting that we really launched then the effort to do our grassroots stuff and to really build the campaign around his bill.”[2]


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