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Down the Legislative Path

The primary challenge faced by the voluntary health agencies was that the tobacco education program would be the first and largest of its kind, and no one knew a sure way to reduce smoking. In the absence of a proven model, the public health groups had to argue their case as trying something new and carrying out the will of the people.

The voluntary health agencies recognized their vulnerability. When he was asked about the effort to implement Proposition 99, ALA lobbyist Tony Najera commented, “We were vulnerable for two reasons. We didn't know what the heck was needed. …and second, we had so much money. We had accumulated so much money before any action plan was even looked at.”[15] Thompson also recognized the vulnerability of the new program: “There were some [existing] programs being defunded or not fully funded competing against things that didn't exist. So,


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in a traditional budgetary context, it's not as difficult to take money from something that hasn't happened and give it to something that's being reduced.”[14] The existing health care programs with established constituencies also provided a clear mechanism by which the money could be spent. According to the Senate Health Committee's John Miller, “The hospitals and the doctors and the others who got big lump sums of money from this tax had a system in place to just plug it in and spend it. I mean, it was gone within minutes of arriving, because their distribution network was already there. We didn't have that.”[15] The voluntary health agencies were thus arguing for a new program for which there were no existing bureaucracy, no proven approaches, and no constituency to defend it against established programs with well-developed financial and political infrastructures.

The CMA, after extracting as much money as possible from Proposition 99, had walked away from anything but token participation in the initiative, even before it qualified for the ballot. After Proposition 99 passed, the CMA struck out on its own almost immediately. At a Coalition meeting on December 28, 1988, the CMA told the other members present of its intent to go after the entire Unallocated Account to fund health insurance for workers who lacked health insurance.

The interest of the voluntary health agencies in continuing a relationship with the CMA, in spite of CMA's increasingly adversarial actions toward prevention programs, would prove to be characteristic of their behavior throughout the Proposition 99 allocation discussions. ANR co-director Julia Carol observed: “I think [the voluntaries] view the CMA as somebody they have to have. All three agencies work with the CMA on issues other than tobacco. Their boards are made up of doctors who are also members of the CMA. The CMA has tremendous clout in the Legislature and they see them as allies that they cannot have a permanent rift with. …they see the CMA as indispensable to who they are and how they have to work.”[26] Despite the CMA's failure to deliver its promised support for the initiative (creating debate over removing it from the Coalition before the initiative passed) and the CMA's repeated raids first on the Health Education Account and then on the Research Account, the voluntary health agencies would cling to the CMA.


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