Supervisors Won’t Appeal Ruling on Health Care Funding
Orange County supervisors decided Tuesday not to appeal last week’s court ruling upholding Measure H, the initiative that earmarks hundreds of millions of dollars in national tobacco lawsuit settlement funds for health care.
Supervisor Jim Silva provided the swing vote when he joined Tom Wilson and Todd Spitzer, who had said prior to Tuesday’s closed session that they would argue against an appeal.
Board Chairwoman Cynthia P. Coad and Chuck Smith voted to pursue an appeal.
“This is good news,” said Jon Gilwee, spokesman for Healthcare Assn. of Southern California, a hospital trade group in Orange County that backed the initiative. “I hope that we’re at a point where we can put matters behind us now and get on with providing health care to the community.”
The ballot measure mandated that most of the $750 million in tobacco settlement funds the county is expected to receive over the next 25 years be spent on health care, not on bankruptcy debt and jail beds, as the board majority had wanted.
Silva, Coad and Smith had waged a political and legal fight against the measure, but were handed a major setback last week when Superior Court Commissioner Jane D. Myers ruled the initiative was valid.
The county has actually been in a legal limbo since the measure was approved by 65% of county voters in November. Decisions by the board majority to challenge the initiative have provided mixed signals for the county’s Health Care Agency, which has not included the initiative funds in budget projections, according to health care leaders who have seen the agency’s draft budget.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Spitzer requested that the county make preparations to enforce the initiative, which must be enacted by July 1.
“My direction is designed to get the ball rolling and to have the county understand policy and critical financial decisions they need to consider,” Spitzer said. “We now need to think, how do we get tobacco money into the hands of those who have the most health needs?”