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The End of Acquiescence
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Objections to CHDP

The early commitment by Najera and Miller to maintain the status quo and accept continued diversions of funds from the Health Education Account to CHDP and other medical services ran into trouble with the constituency that Proposition 99 had spawned. The Sacramento-based lobbyists were not used to considering the grassroots in their thinking.

The Sacramento lobbyists were used to compromising in the Legislature whereas local grassroots activists were used to winning pitched battles with the tobacco industry.

These two cultures clashed in October 1993 at the California Strategic Summit on the Future of Tobacco Control, a two-day meeting funded by the California Wellness Foundation to develop recommendations for the Legislature regarding reauthorization. Four major recommendations emerged from this conference: (1) the new legislation should authorize the program until the year 2000, (2) the diversion of Health Education monies into medical services should stop, (3) the Health Education Account should receive 20 percent of the tax money, as the voters mandated, and (4) Section 43 should be dropped.[10] The program constituency was tired of compromise. There was a strong feeling that Najera and the chair of the Tobacco Education Oversight Committee (TEOC), Carolyn Martin, who argued against the meeting's recommendations as being unrealistic, had already agreed to maintain the status quo in 1994. The conference forced the issue of demanding the full 20 percent of revenues for anti-tobacco education. There was pressure to fight a hard and public fight.

The public health groups also came under pressure from a study commissioned by the Department of Health Services (DHS) to examine the structure of the Proposition 99 program.[11] The committee preparing the study was chaired by Dr. Thomas Novotny of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley. The central conclusion of the report was that the greatest threat to the tobacco education program was the “lack of will on the part of the government to implement the Health Education Account as originally mandated by the voters.”[12] (The draft of the report went to DHS in December 1993, but it was not released until February 1994. Health groups suspected that the release of the report, which was critical of the governor, was delayed until after Kimberly Belshé was confirmed as head of the DHS.[13]) The second threat was the “failure of key constituent groups to hold the government fully accountable to the will of the voters.”[12]

The ALA's position on Proposition 99 hardened. In an Action Alert sent by ALA on February 16, 1994, ALA urged recipients to write the members of the Conference Committee and request the following:

  1. the removal of Section 43.
  2. the removal of CHDP funding.

  3. 252
  4. removal of the requirement that 1/3 of LLA money go to perinatal funding.
  5. full 20% funding of health education.[14]

The boards of the ALA and the California Thoracic Society (a related medical association) adopted motions that they would not accept less than 20 percent funding for the Health Education Account.[15]

But taking a firm stand did not necessarily translate into an effective strategy. Paul Knepprath, who was working for ALA-Sacramento/Emigrant Trails during the 1994 fight, was advising the state-level ALA on media strategies and was urging them to be more public and confrontational. On March 18 he wrote to Miller and Najera to alert them that “time is running short on our opportunity to generate media on the Health Education Account.” Knepprath continued, “Taking the offensive is critical. To do so, we need to create some waves, and plant the seed in the minds of conferees and other members that `hey something's going on with that tobacco tax conference committee.'…It may not be comfortable, but we have got to raise a stink if we want anyone to pay attention. Without the controversy, we don't have much hook and all the letter-writing will fall on deaf ears” (emphasis added).[16] In spite of Knepprath's advice, ALA did not pursue a more aggressive public stance. Mary Griffin, a contract lobbyist who had been at the state Health and Welfare Agency during the debates over AB 75 and was paid by Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) to monitor the 1994 process, criticized this approach. When asked about the failure to stop the diversions in AB 816, she replied, “Dragging their briefcases through the Capitol building does not constitute lobbying. Sitting in a legislator's office saying, `Well, we really want this and blah, blah, blah,' it doesn't do it. Let me tell you, it doesn't do it. You need to lobby. That means using every resource at your command. It means getting your folks to give. Don't put out a letter and think your alert is going to go drum up the word. It doesn't work that way.”[17]

As the process proceeded, the health groups began to vigorously object to CHDP and the other diversions from the Health Education Account. They were, however, hampered by their previous agreements to divert funds out of Health Education and into medical services. When asked about the CHDP compromise, Cathrine Castoreno, a lobbyist with the University of California, made the distinction between the CHDP compromise and other compromises that are typically done in the legislative arena:


Precedent is a powerful thing. …There are some cases where you compromise on stuff that you care about and it presents no tremendous risks. But they weren't just compromising the program, they were compromising the integrity of that statute. And once you agree to disregard the law, you're sucked in because there's no one who has greater disregard for the law than the legislators. And it's impossible for you with any credibility to go back and say, “Well, I agreed to break the law last year, but I don't want to do it this year.”[18]

Isenberg was perceived by many parties to have been more hostile to the Health Education and Research Accounts in 1994 than in prior years. In a 1997 interview, Isenberg said that what really irritated him in 1994 was that representatives of the voluntary health agencies tried to argue that they had never supported the diversions into CHDP:

The part that I found most objectionable from the non-profits is they…said, “We never agreed to the first allocation, we didn't agree to the second allocation. You did it over our dead bodies.” That is not true…and one of the problems with that posture, which has served them politically in many ways,…is that…this was not a case of a fifteen-year-old memory where nobody was left. This is where all the active participants were still there, and goddamn it, they were so angry, so bitter, so disappointed that they were misrepresenting the fact they signed off on the first deal. Well, in retrospect, they shouldn't have signed off on the first deal, although they would have been ignored had they not participated. There would have been other undesirable consequences that flowed from that. …If everybody knew then what they know now, that fight would have been exactly that issue.[6] [emphasis added]

The voter mandate of specific allocations to the Health Education and Research Accounts was no longer an issue. It was all about who was willing to deal.

Other key players also had some opinions about why Isenberg seemed so much more hostile in 1994. ANR's Robin Hobart observed,

He historically…had been very supportive of the health education efforts and then just totally turned about and was furious. And I really believe it's because he thought he had made a deal with Tony [Najera], that they were going to make that appropriation that way. Tony probably thought it was okay because it was going to be short term until the budget got better. And then when it turned out Tony couldn't really speak for the rest of the now many many players out in the field who were saying, “This is not acceptable,” I think Isenberg was just furious. He felt a deal had been made and now it wasn't being delivered on.[19]

Peter Schilla, the lobbyist for the Western Center for Law and Poverty whose priority was finding money to pay for health services for poor people, continued to be an extremely influential lobbyist working against

the tobacco control programs. Although his organization did not give campaign contributions, Isenberg listened to Schilla. According to John Miller,

Somebody asked [Isenberg] in all the conflicting claims of the different sides on this dispute who did he believe. He said, “Peter Schilla is who I believe.” And Peter was a very credible figure, very highly regarded around here in the health care field. And CMA moves huge muscle on these things and I think I, in [AB] 816, underestimated who was driving this thing. I believed it was the tobacco industry with the medical providers along for the ride. And I think it was just the opposite now. But while the CMA has huge weight with certain members, Peter's influence was greater. CMA couldn't have moved Phil, but Peter could. …Most politicians understand that when the industry comes to them and asks them to do something, that it's in the interest of that industry. But when the Western Center, good guy/consumers'/poor peoples' defenders, comes and says this is the right thing to do, they tend to do it.[20]

In the face of a hostile Isenberg and concerted and talented opponents, tobacco control advocates had a difficult authorization fight ahead. One of Schilla's sources of power was his ability to both raise and solve problems, based in part on his in-depth knowledge of health programs and budgets. The voluntaries' lobbying staffs never developed the same level of expertise on these important technical details.

Isenberg was correct in pointing out that the voluntary health agencies had acquiesced in the previous diversions of Health Education Account money into medical services, including CHDP. They were now trying to change course five years into the program, which meant that they needed to account for the shift. A May 9 memo from the ALA Government Relations Office explained the change in ALA's stance: “CHDP's costs have grown so large that they now jeopardize the very existence of the Health Education Program. We can now support CHDP only by sacrificing the anti-tobacco education effort. Straight line projections indicate that the Health Education Program would be ineffectual in two years and disappear entirely in four years if it is forced to sustain CHDP. We simply have no choice but to insist that the Medical Services appropriation support CHDP—not Health Education.”[21] ACS's Don Beerline echoed this philosophy when he was asked in 1996 why the voluntary health agencies decided to refuse to accept diversions in AB 816: “We said that this is destroying the program at this point. In the previous diversions, the money did go to indigent care, that's consistently where it went. But it was such a smaller percentage,

we felt that the programs could be carried out. But in '94-'95 that was obviously the point where we felt that the programs were becoming ineffective. So that's the reason that we decided to go along with drawing the line in the sand.”[22]

But the tough stance in 1994 was about more than just the size of the diversions from anti-tobacco programs to medical services. One of the reasons why the Coalition came down so hard against the diversions in 1994 was that for the first time they acknowledged how little was being done for tobacco use prevention within CHDP. When asked about the decision to try to halt the diversions, TEOC chair Carolyn Martin explained, “The TEOC had worked very diligently to try and get information on what was going on in CHDP and, believe me, it was not easy. Dr. [Lester] Breslow especially and I were down there pounding on their door and eventually we figured out there was nothing to give us because they weren't doing anything. So I think that made a huge difference, plus the extent of the diversion. Suddenly we're talking about huge percentages and big drops in programs.”[23]

Martin was supported in several quarters on CHDP's lack of effectiveness as an anti-smoking program. Bruce Pomer, executive director of the Health Officers Association of California, wrote to Isenberg on June 21, 1994, protesting the planned diversions. He specifically criticized the latest effort to put Health Education Account money into CHDP:

Our concern is the deceptive nature of the proposal. The current health provider protocols ($150 million in CHDP) have never had their effectiveness assessed. The last assessment of medical anti-tobacco protocols found no demonstrable effect what-so-ever from physician provided anti-tobacco advice. We find it ironic that the medical industry now proposes expanding physician assisted anti-tobacco education, which has been found to be largely ineffective. Likewise, it should give one pause that these amendments are supported exclusively by the medical industry and that not a single health education organization considers the suggestion to have any merit.[24]

The California Tobacco Survey, the large survey of tobacco use in California conducted by John Pierce of the University of California at San Diego for DHS, failed to demonstrate any impact on smoking by CHDP.[25] In contrast, the survey found large effects from much smaller programs, such as the media campaign and the creation of smoke-free workplaces.

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