Supervisors to continue with Measure H lawsuit |

Supervisors to continue with Measure H lawsuit

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

The Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to proceed with litigation that would eliminate voters’ input on how Master Tobacco Settlement money should be spent.

After weeks of deferring the Health Alliance’s initiative seeking to allocate tobacco money for health care programs, the board voted unanimously to place the initiative on the March 2002 ballot, and then passed a separate motion seeking to have a court deem the initiative invalid.

The board filed a similar lawsuit last week against the Builders’ Exchange Measure H, a road improvement initiative seeking general fund money.

P.J. LoDuca, president of the Health Alliance, said the lawsuit against the health initiative will have no legal bearing because it is significantly different from Measure H.

Although the county is placing the Tobacco Settlement money into the general fund, LoDuca says the state earmarked the money as special funds and did not stipulate where it should be spent or into what county account it should be placed.

LoDuca said the initiative would not tie the board’s discretionary hands because the tobacco revenues are additional to the general fund revenues and are not guaranteed.

Because the county will receive tobacco payments before the lawsuit will come to fruition or county residents can vote on the alliance’s initiative, the board said it has the option of granting 25 percent of the payments to health-related programs providing the alliance put together proposals for how the money would be used.

The board also asked the county health department to determine how much actual money the alliance would be given before the 2002 election.

The Health Alliance, made up of Barton Memorial Hospital, Marshall Hospital and more than 20 other health care organizations and individuals, originally brought its initiative, containing more than 11,000 signatures, before the board in July.

The initiative requested the public vote on how the county should spend $47 million of Tobacco Settlement money, after the board had already decided the money should fund a new juvenile hall.

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