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Tobacco Policy Making in California 2001-2003: No Longer Finishing First


* Tobacco control efforts in California during the 2001-2002 legislative session were hampered by the resurgence of the tobacco industry and a lack of commitment from the Davis Administration.

* During the 2001-2002 legislative session, the tobacco industry spent a total of $5.95 million in political expenditures, which is an increase of $1.3 million over the previous legislative session.

* Campaign contributions from the tobacco industry to legislators, legislative candidates, political parties and constitutional officers totaled $1.66 million, a 13% increase over the previous election cycle.

* Tobacco industry to campaign contributions continue to favor Republicans over Democrats, although the divide is not as great as in previous years. Thus, of the $1,153,466 that was contributed to an identifiable party (including candidates, constitutional officers, legislators and political parties) during the 2001-2002 legislative session, $706,150 went to Republicans (61%) compared to $447,316 to Democrats (39%). This is an increase from the previous election cycle, when Republicans received 58% ($857,023) of the tobacco industry’s contributions in California and Democrats received 42% ($613,587).

* An additional $513,000 was contributed to non-partisan committees in 2001-2002.

* The largest recipients of tobacco industry funds during the 2001-2002 legislative session were Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Dist.37), who received $63,000 and Senator James Brulte (R-Dist.31) who received $67,500.

* On average, for every one point increase in a legislator's tobacco policy score, tobacco industry campaign contributions decreased by $3,270. This is a slight decrease from the 1997-1998 legislative session when a one point increase in the policy score resulted in a $3,690 decrease in tobacco industry campaign contributions

*During the 2001-2002 legislative session, 74 candidates and elected officials did not accept contributions from the tobacco industry; 16 Republicans (23% of 69 Republicans) and 59 Democrats (59% of 100 Democrats).

* Among the committees that review tobacco control policy, members of the Assembly Governmental Organizations Committee received the highest average tobacco industry campaign contribution among those recipients who accepted tobacco industry funding: $16,988 per member accepting tobacco funds. The Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee ranked a close second ($16,750 per accepting member), followed by the Senate Governmental Organizations Committee ($14,694 per accepting member) and the Assembly Health Committee ($12,778 per accepting member). With the exception of the Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committees, all of the Republican members of these committees accepted tobacco industry campaign contributions.

* The tobacco industry spent $4.29 million on lobbying expenditures during the 2001-2002 legislative session, including $3.64 million paid directly to lobbying firms and an additional $649,076 on activities and other expenditures to influence policy making in California. Excluding activity and other expenditures, the tobacco industry increased its lobbying expenditures by $1.05 million (a 41% increase) between the 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 legislative sessions.

* The tobacco industry has adopted a new strategy of using independent expenditure committees, which are not required to report political expenditures, to attack and discredit policy makers sympathetic to tobacco control in California.

* Of the 10 tobacco-related bills that were enacted during the 2001-2002 legislative session, the tobacco lobbying firms reported lobbying against seven of them. The three bills not lobbied on included: a) AB2205 which increases the penalty for knowingly holding or selling tobacco products without having paid the appropriate tobacco tax, b) AB 1867 which expands the area around totlots in which smoking is prohibited and c) SB 322 which prohibits the sale of bidis.

* Of the 17 tobacco-related bills that were not enacted during the 2001-2002 legislative session, the tobacco lobbying firms reported lobbying against 12.

* The tobacco industry has also made efforts to gain legitimacy in the public’s eye through youth prevention programs and image changes, such as Philip Morris changing its name to Altria and renewing its efforts to donate funds to community projects. The result is that policy makers, such as Carole Migden, are starting to state that the tobacco industry has changed as a justification for accepting tobacco industry campaign contributions.

* The effectiveness of California’s tobacco control efforts were recognized by the tobacco industry in September 2002 when R.J. Reynolds filed suit against the California Tobacco Education Media Campaign, claiming that the media campaign made it impossible for the tobacco companies to receive a fair trial with an unbiased jury. Judge Michael T. Garcia ruled against the tobacco company.

* R.J. Reynolds made a second attempt at legitimacy in the court of public opinion, this time in conjunction with Lorillard, by returning to the California Courts in April 2003, filing allegations of vilification by the Media Campaign.

* The tobacco industry spends more than $1.2 billion annually on advertising and promotions in California alone. At the same time, California’s Tobacco Control Program was funded at only about 12% of the tobacco industry’s expenditures on advertising and promotions.

* The Tobacco Control Program’s budget has continued to erode at the hands of the Davis Administration. The Governor’s Proposal for the 2003-2004 Budget appropriates approximately $86 million for the program, which is a decrease from $108 million in 2002-2003 and $154 million in 2001-2002. The decline in revenues is due to a decrease in Proposition 99 revenues as a result of decreased tobacco consumption and a lack of new funds dedicated to the Tobacco Control Program. At the same time, inflation has reduced the purchasing power of the funds that are available.

* In 2001, Governor Davis increased funding for the Media Campaign $19 million in FY1999-2000 to $45 million for FY2000-2001 and FY2001-2002. In 2001, Governor Davis also allocated $20 million from the state’s share of MSA revenues for a youth anti-smoking campaign. However, this commitment to the Tobacco Control Program was short-lived, as Governor Davis withdrew the additional funds in 2002.

* While rates of tobacco use in California have remained stable at about 17% between 2000 and 2001, the prevalence decreased to 16.6% in 2002. This drop may be a reflection of the additional funds provided in 2000 and 2001.

* In 2002, there were three proposals introduced to increase the cigarette excise tax. Governor Davis introduced a 50 cent increase which was changed to a 63 cent increase in the Senate’s revision of the budget, Senator Deborah Ortiz introduced a 65 cent increase, and Speaker Herb Wesson proposed a $2.13 increase. While Senator Ortiz intended the revenues from a tax increase to go to tobacco control and access to health care programs, neither the Governor nor Speaker Wesson earmarked any portion of the tax for tobacco control efforts. None of these proposals were enacted.

* In January 2003, Governor Davis included a $1.10 cigarette tax increase in his 2003-2004 Budget proposal, but these funds were intended to bridge the $34.6 billion budget deficit and as of April 2003, none of the revenues were earmarked for tobacco control efforts.

* In his May 2003 budget revision, Governor Davis proposed only a 23 cent tax increase in 2003-2004 and an additional 40 cent tax increase in 2004-2005. This decision was made despite a 61% public approval for a cigarette tax increase of $2.00 and a 68% approval for a cigarette tax increase of 75 cents.

* While state officials decided to securitize $2.5 billion in Master Settlement Agreement revenues in January 2003, the Governor's May 2003 budget revision indicated that the state would not securitize its remaining share of funds. Instead, the $173 million expected for the next fiscal year would be used to cover General Fund expenditures for the Healthy Families Program.

*. While the Governor's May revision of the 2003-2004 Budget did not reflect the Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee’s funding recommendations, funding for the Tobacco Control Program was increased by 6% as opposed to a decrease or a diversion of funds as a result of a one time increase in the Proposition 10 backfill.

* While the Davis Administration has not exhibited the hostility to the Tobacco Control Program evidenced during the Wilson years, it has also failed to give an effective program a priority. Progress only took place when the administration was faced with external pressures, either mounted by health advocates or, in one case, a legal challenge by the tobacco industry.

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