Terry the purple cartoon rat will still go on TV and tell young children to “reject all tobacco,” but the message won’t be broadcast as often. Meanwhile, anti-smoking efforts are fading away from Mississippi college campuses.
Leaders of The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi say the tobacco-fighting group has enough money in reserves to operate for about five months – but only if it scales back some of its programs and eliminates others.
“This is too good. It’s done too much good. It will not die,” former Attorney General Mike Moore, the Partnership’s chairman, said Thursday. “It may get recreated in some form or fashion. There may be some change here or there. But comprehensive tobacco prevention programs are here to stay in Mississippi.”
A judge’s ruling this week cast doubt on the future of the Partnership, a private, nonprofit group created after Mississippi settled its massive lawsuit against tobacco companies in 1997. The settlement is bringing Mississippi about $4 billion over 25 years.
Under a separate deal reached in 1998, cigarette companies gave Mississippi $62 million to create a two-year anti-smoking program aimed at young people. That’s how the Partnership was born.
When the $62 million ran out, Democrat Moore persuaded Jackson County Chancery Judge Jaye Bradley to sign a court order directing part of Mississippi’s annual lawsuit settlement payment to the Partnership.
Mississippians elected Republican Haley Barbour as governor in 2003, and he sued last year to challenge the $20 million a year that goes to the Partnership. Barbour – a former tobacco lobbyist – has praised the Partnership’s work but says lawmakers, not a court, should decide how public money is spent.
This week, Bradley reversed her earlier court order, agreeing with Barbour’s position. Bradley cited the disagreement between the current governor and legislative leaders about how the anti-smoking group should be funded.
The Partnership has filed a notice with the Mississippi Supreme Court that it intends to appeal Bradley’s latest ruling.
Moore said there are other options to try to keep the group alive. He said the Partnership can ask legislators to fund the program. Or, Partnership supporters could gather thousands of signatures on petitions to put the issue before Mississippi voters in the November 2007 elections.
Earlier this year, lawmakers voted to send the Partnership’s $20 million through the regular state budget process. Barbour vetoed the bill, and no attempt was made to override the veto because Senate leaders didn’t have the required two-thirds majority.
In February, Barbour proposed putting the $20 million into what he called his “Healthy Kids” initiative. Barbour said $5 million could be used to expand a school nurse program; $5 million could go to cancer research, screening, education and treatment; $5 million could be used to maintain anti-tobacco education and advertising; and $5 million could increase the state’s effort to fight illegal drugs.
With the Partnership’s funding in limbo, Barbour said this week: “Now we should refocus our efforts on a constitutional and comprehensive approach to fighting youth smoking and drug use, such as the ‘Healthy Kids’ initiative.”
House Public Health Committee Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, attended the Partnership’s board meeting on Thursday. He said he’ll try to arrange a meeting in the next two weeks between Barbour and select lawmakers to discuss the future of anti-tobacco programs.
Holland, who supports the Partnership, said he wants to hear Barbour’s ideas.
“I’m willing to compromise,” Holland said. “But I’m not willing to be dictated to.”
Holland, who supports the Partnership, said he wants to hear Barbour’s ideas.
“I’m willing to compromise,” Holland said. “But I’m not willing to be dictated to.”
This quote from an anti!!! Only THEY can do the dictating! – A Newsletter Reader
Judge’s New Order Casts Doubt On Future Of Anti-Tobacco Program
May 30, 2006
A new ruling by a Gulf Coast judge could kill a privately run anti-tobacco program, but the program’s leader says he’ll fight to save The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.
Jackson County Chancery Judge Jaye Bradley on Tuesday overturned her December 2000 court order that had directed $20 million a year to the Partnership, a private nonprofit group led by former Attorney General Mike Moore.
Bradley wrote that lawmakers, not a judge, should decide how the money is spent – a position that’s been argued by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.
“Mississippi arguably has the most successful tobacco cessation program in the nation,” Bradley wrote Tuesday.
However, the judge wrote that when she issued her original order, there was agreement between the legislative and executive branches of government that money should go to the Partnership.
“It is clear that this no longer exists and that the executive and legislative branches of government no longer agree to the order in question,” Bradley wrote.
The governor in 2000 was Democrat Ronnie Musgrove. The governor now is Barbour, who filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Partnership’s funding. Moore, chairman of the Partnership’s board, says he’s disappointed and “a bit perplexed” by Bradley’s latest decision.
“The court has ruled that the governor’s opposition has somehow extinguished the court’s authority to enter its order, and we don’t believe that’s the law,” Moore said. “We agree with the court that she had authority to enter the order when she entered it. We disagree that she loses her authority because the governor objects.”
Moore said there are several options to try to keep the Partnership alive. He said the group’s board can ask Bradley to either reverse her latest ruling or to put it on hold, or the board can appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
The Partnership’s board will meet in the next few days to decide what to do, Moore said. The group’s new budget year starts Thursday.
An appeal would further prolong a political battle that pits Barbour, who’s a former tobacco lobbyist, against Moore, a Democrat who filed a landmark lawsuit against cigarette makers in the 1990s.
The Partnership’s money comes from Mississippi’s multibillion dollar tobacco lawsuit settlement that Moore negotiated in 1997. Though many states have spent their tobacco lawsuit settlements on unrelated programs such as roads and bridges, Mississippi has received national praise for the Partnership’s anti-tobacco programs for preschoolers to adults.
Moore did not seek re-election as attorney general in 2003.
Barbour, state Treasurer Tate Reeves and others filed a lawsuit last year challenging the court order that directed money to the Partnership. Barbour has said the Partnership does good work but the money should be put through the regular state budget process, with lawmakers deciding how the $20 million a year is spent. Barbour on Tuesday praised Bradley’s ruling.
“I am pleased that she is a strong enough person to have the gumption to vacate her own order. The only way for the state to spend state funding is for the Legislature to appropriate it through the legislative process,” Barbour said.
Earlier this year, lawmakers voted to put the money through the budget process, but Barbour vetoed the bill. No override was attempted because Senate leaders said there were not enough votes for a two-thirds majority needed.
Supporters of the bill said it would’ve accomplished the goal of Barbour’s lawsuit by giving lawmakers the ability to decide how the money is spent. They also cited the Partnership’s success of lowering the teen smoking rate through educational programs, TV and radio ads and billboards.
Critics of the Partnership say there has been too little financial disclosure by the group, which is audited by a private firm. They also say the Partnership had become a political tool to promote Moore – something that Moore says is not true.
Moore, who’s in private law practice now, is widely seen as a potential candidate for another statewide office, such as governor. Barbour plans to seek re-election in 2007.
Before unseating Musgrove in 2003, Barbour was a successful Washington lobbyist whose client list included tobacco companies.
Matthew Myers, president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said Bradley’s latest order could kill a successful program.
“Unless funding for the program is restored, Mississippi’s kids will pay the price and Gov. Barbour should bear the responsibility,” Myers said.
Myers said the Partnership has been fulfilling the purpose of the state’s lawsuit against tobacco companies – “that is, protecting Mississippi kids and saving millions of dollars for Mississippi’s taxpayers.”
Most of Mississippi’s tobacco lawsuit settlement is going into a state Health Care Trust Fund, and the state treasurer serves on the fund’s board.
On Tuesday, Reeves said: “The court made a responsible decision correcting an unconstitutional order that has diverted over $100 million of taxpayer money into a private organization with no public oversight or accountability.”
Moore said courts need to have the authority to settle disputes between the executive and legislative branches of government.
“I’m used to the governor and the Legislature being in disagreement,” Moore said. “But I could always go to the courts and get an answer.” Read
Judge Kicks Fate of Anti-Tobacco Funding to Legislature
05/30/06 Wendy Suares
The $20 million a year that goes to the Partnership For a Healthy Mississippi is now in the hands of the state legislature. A Gulf Coast judge overturned a ruling that sent a portion of the 1997 tobacco settlement money directly to the non-profit each year.
Former Attorney General Mike Moore says the ruling just doesn’t make sense, putting a thousand jobs and the most successful anti-tobacco program in the country in jeopardy. “What the governor has successfully done, maybe, has stopped funds and killed those programs. I’m not too sure I’d be too proud of that,” Moore says.
Governor Haley Barbour filed the lawsuit last year, arguing all of the annual money from Mike Moore’s multi-billion dollar tobacco settlement had to constitutionally be appropriated by the legislature. “We’ll now come back and see how to use those funds in the future, but until then they’ll stay in the healthcare trust fund,” Barbour says.
The legislature already tried to appropriate the money this past legislative session. Both chambers agreed to continue sending the money to the Partnership. “They passed bills to continue this very important program. It’s only the governor who objects to this,” Moore says.
The governor vetoed the bill, criticizing the Partnership for misusing the $100 million it’s received over the last five years. He says the money could be better spent and used for more than just tackling tobacco use. “…The use of drugs, provide healthcare, nursing care. I’m certain the legislature and the executive branch will work together to make sure that is in fact how this money is spent,” says Barbour.
Moore, who serves as board chairman of the Partnership, says he’ll appeal the ruling to the state supreme Court. “I’m going to fight until the last hoorah -so to speak- to protect kids in this state. This is a program worth fighting for.”
Miss. bill for Tobacco payment vetoed
Mar. 28, 2006 SHELIA BYRD
JACKSON, Miss. – Gov. Haley Barbour on Monday vetoed a bill that would continue to allow the Mississippi Legislature to give $20 million a year to a private, nonprofit anti-tobacco organization.
In his veto message, Barbour said “the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi has been cloaked in politics and cronyism.”
The Partnership has received $20 million a year by court order since 2000. The money comes from a massive lawsuit Mississippi settled with tobacco companies in 1997.
Barbour, a Republican, sued in 2005 seeking to halt payments to the Partnership, which is led by former Attorney General Mike Moore, a Democrat.
Moore filed the landmark lawsuit against the tobacco industry. At the time, Barbour was a Washington, D.C., lobbyist representing some tobacco companies. Barbour has said his Washington record has not influenced his position about the Partnership money.
A spokeswoman for the nonprofit disagreed.
With the veto, “Haley Barbour looks like he continues to protect the interest of big tobacco,” said Sharon Garrison, the Partnership’s communications director.
The Partnership operates several anti-smoking programs, many of them targeting Mississippi teens. The group has received national recognition for its programs, which are credited with reducing underage smoking.
In addition, the group helps pay for school nurses and offers tobacco treatment services.
Barbour said the Partnership has received $100 million since 2000, but there’s no public accounting of how the money was spent.
“The Partnership’s argument is to give the Partnership another $20 million and then they’ll tell us what they did with the other $100 million. I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night,” Barbour said.
Barbour said the Partnership has received $100 million since 2000, but there’s no public accounting of how the money was spent.
Agencies argue records cannot be scrutinized
Lawyer favors records access for entities with public mission, funding
March 12, 2006 By Holbrook Mohr The Associated Press
From university foundations to publicly funded development organizations, there is an emerging environment where government alliances often operate in the financial shadows.
“Quasi-public entities” have popped up by the dozens in recent years as state and area governments delegate responsibilities like increasing tourism, says Leonard Van Slyke, a Jackson attorney who specializes in freedom-of-information issues.
Without legislative action, some agencies receiving significant public funds or raising money on behalf of public entities argue their records are not subject to public scrutiny, Van Slyke said.
What constitutes a quasi-public entity is unclear under the law, and just how much information they have to divulge is yet another gray area.
“If they are a private entity that receives significant public support or they perform the duties of a public body, they fall into the realm of a quasi-public entity,” Van Slyke said.
In such event, he thinks a court would allow the public access to their records.
However, many organizations Van Slyke considers quasi-public claim they are private entities and not subject to open records laws.
The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi – a smoking cessation organization that is funded by an annual $20 million payment from tobacco companies as part of Mississippi’s landmark $1.4 billion settlement of the 1990s – posts annual audits on it Web site.
However, the partnership, which is locked in a battle with Gov. Haley Barbour over its annual payments, won’t release its executives’ salaries because it is a nonprofit organization, said spokeswoman Sharon Garrison.
Barbour wants to direct the partnership’s money through the state Legislature where there would be more oversight of what he considers public money. Legislation is pending to appropriate the money.
The partnership points to a reduction in tobacco use and the success of its programs in recent years and says the money should be left alone.
The question over public money reaches from universities to local governments.
Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom’s “salary is subsidized by private giving so it would not show up in his state-approved salary,” said Mississippi State spokesman Mike Nemeth.
“It comes from the athletic department’s private giving.”
When asked how to get access to the salary the Bulldog Club foundation pays Croom, Nemeth said: “I’m not sure that it couldn’t be done, but I’m sure that it would have to be a legal recourse.”
Other entities working for the public are tight-lipped as well, especially when it comes to executive salaries.
FOIA REQUESTS DENIED
The Associated Press requested by e-mail to the president and financial officer of the Area Development Partnership in Hattiesburg a list of salaries and travel and entertainment expenses for 2005.
The Area Development Partnership is “a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life .. through community and economic development,” its Web site says.
The partnership is under contract with both Lamar and Perry counties and should be held to open record standards, Van Slyke said.
The organization rejected AP requests for information on salary, travel and entertainment expenses “because FOIA is not applicable to Area Development Partnership, a 501(c)(6) corporation,” said Pat Hicks, a secretary for Frank D. Montague Jr., the attorney that represents the ADP.
Mississippi State also would not produce copies of its coaches’ contracts under the Freedom of Information Act.
“They consider (the salary) a part of the confidential contract with part of the external agency,” Mississippi State spokeswoman Maridith Geuder said.
The AP mailed a Freedom of Information request on Feb. 16. As of this week, the university’s legal counsel had not responded.
Under the law, public bodies have 14 days to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request.
A 1998 opinion by the attorney general’s office says funds collected by university foundations are not public “until such time they are paid over to the universities.”
The opinion does not make clear whether giving the funds to a university employee, such as a coach, would open the records to the public.
Jan Schaefer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Hood, said the attorney general’s office has not rendered opinions on whether entities such as the ADP and Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi are subject to open records laws.
She said the most relevant opinion on the issue primarily deals with university foundations.
That opinion says public funds are those “received, collected by, or available for the support or expenditure of, by any state department, institution or agency, whether such funds be collected from taxes or from fees … or from some other source.”
Questions about quasi-public entities reach well beyond Mississippi.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has said it will rule on whether the University of Louisville Foundation has to disclose the names of its individual donors.
A lawsuit filed by The Courier-Journal of Louisville in 2001 claims the names of donors should be public because they could influence university officials.
Van Slyke says many organizations that could fall into the realm of quasi-public entities shun open records requests in Mississippi and it’s only a matter of time before someone here sues.
Senate OKs Partnership bill
Bill giving state oversight of funds now headed to House
After four hours of debate Tuesday, the state Senate narrowly passed a bill that would preserve $20 million a year in funding for a tobacco prevention and cessation program but put it under state oversight.
The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi currently receives the money from the state’s 1997 lawsuit settlement with tobacco companies.
This year’s $20 million, however, is on hold while the court decides who wins a tug of war over the funding – Gov. Haley Barbour or former Attorney General Mike Moore, who won the settlement money, established The Partnership and is its chairman.
Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, who defended House Bill 1115, said it addresses one main criticism of the program: That the state has no real oversight over how the group’s $20 million annual payment is spent.
“(If it becomes law) this bill would continue the good work of The Partnership and have accountability to the Legislature,” Burton said.
The bill, approved on a 25-23 vote, heads back to the House, which can accept it as is or vote for compromise negotiations.
Sandra Shelson, executive director of The Partnership, said the Senate’s approval shows the Legislature’s commitment to the group. “This further shores up the good work we’re doing making Mississippi a healthier state and saving the taxpayers of this state money in health-care expenses related to smoking,” Shelson said.
But the bill’s opponents said they want to see accountability before the money is spent.
The money has been going directly to The Partnership under the order of a Chancery judge. But Barbour went to court last year to stop the money from going directly to The Partnership.
“While it is claimed that The Partnership is audited, no certified audit of the Partnership’s use of the state’s money has ever been provided,” Barbour has said.
Moore said Barbour is telling people that if the bill passes, he will veto it. “It’s hypocritical. The governor’s only complaint has been that he wanted the money appropriated by the Legislature rather than the courts,” Moore said.
Barbour was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday trying to secure additional funding for the state’s Katrina recovery. When asked about Moore’s comments, Barbour spokesman Pete Smith responded, “That’s ridiculous.”
Opposing senators conceded The Partnership does valuable work, but implied that groups funded by The Partnership have used the money for everything from church choir robes to campaign donations.
Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, offered an amendment to the bill that requires the state auditor to conduct a thorough audit before any public money is spent to fund The Partnership.
Brown said he was not satisfied with simply receiving a list of organizations that receive money from The Partnership.
Supporters of The Partnership say the group’s programs are some of the most successful in the country, and the money has been wisely spent.
James Flowers, 52, of Jackson hopes The Partnership continues getting its current funding. He participated in a smoking cessation program funded by The Partnership.
After smoking two packs a day for 37 years, Flowers said he hasn’t had a cigarette in five days. While he’s “not out of the woods yet,” Flowers said the program has been better than any of other method he’s used to quit. “This program really educates you and teaches you how to quit.”
The Mississippi House approved Thursday giving $20 million to the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, a smoking cessation program.
House Bill 1115 directs $20 million of tobacco settlement funds to the Partnership.
For the past five years, an order by a Gulf Coast chancery judge has directed money to the Partnership.
Gov. Haley Barbour, state Treasurer Tate Reeves and others filed a lawsuit last year challenging how the Partnership is funded. The governor has said the Legislature should determine how much money the group receives.
Former Attorney General Mike Moore, who founded the organization and serves as its chairman, then asked lawmakers to pass a bill funding the program.
Several Republicans opposed the measure, but not enough to stop the vote.
Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said a private group should not receive public funds.
Democrats spoke in favor of the Partnership for its work in cutting smoking in Mississippi.
“It has worked for seven years,” House Public Health & Human Services Committee Chairman Steve Holland said. “It is the model smoking cessation program in the United States of America.”
Partnership funding bills seek to end political feud
January 18, 2006 By Emily Wagster Pettus The Associated Press
Bills awaiting debate in the Mississippi Legislature are designed to diffuse a political battle over state funding for anti-smoking programs, former Attorney General Mike Moore says.
House Bill 1115 and Senate Bill 2760 say legislators — not a judge — would direct $20 million a year to a private, nonprofit group called The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.
Moore, chairman of the Partnership’s board of directors, said he asked lawmakers to make the change.
“In an overarching effort to try to end the controversy that has continued for years and years about how the Partnership money is appropriated and to get the talk radio silent and to get all the politics and nuisances out of this successful program, we are going to attempt to make sure that the money is appropriated by the Legislature to the Partnership,” Moore said Tuesday.
For the past five years, an order by a Gulf Coast chancery judge has directed money to the Partnership. The money is part of the state’s settlement of a lawsuit that Moore, a Democrat, filed against cigarette makers in the mid-1990s.
The lawsuit sought reimbursement of public costs of treating sick smokers. Moore negotiated a settlement in 1997 that’s bringing the state more than $100 million a year, and state law directs most of the money into a health care trust fund.
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and other critics say lawmakers, not a court, should make decisions about the $20 million that’s going to the Partnership.
Critics call the Partnership a political tool for Moore, who did not seek a fifth term in 2003 as attorney general .
Barbour spokesman Pete Smith said Tuesday that the governor’s staff needs to review the bills.
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, a Republican, said a legislative committee that studied the Partnership last year recommended routing the money through the regular state appropriations process. “I have said all along that the Partnership does great work,” Tuck said.
The Partnership spends money on a host of programs, including smoking cessation, school nurses and anti-tobacco ads aimed at teenagers.
“The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi has succeeded precisely because, in this state, politicians kept their promise about why they brought the tobacco lawsuit,” Matthew Myers, president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said Tuesday in Jackson.
Barbour, state Treasurer Tate Reeves and others filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Partnership’s court order. In December, Jackson County Chancery Judge Jaye Bradley ruled that the suit can proceed.
Bradley’s ruling did not take the payments away from the Partnership. But it did put this year’s $20 million on hold, meaning the money cannot be spent until the dispute is resolved, officials said.
Moore on Tuesday said he’s worried that if the case goes to trial, Partnership employees would not get paid until the court dispute is resolved.
Evelyn Fort, a Partnership volunteer in Natchez and Adams County, goes into schools and churches to speak to young people about the health hazards of smoking. She said it’s important that the state continue putting money into tobacco prevention programs, either through a court order or through legislation. “The Partnership has done wonderful work because it helps to defray poor children away from tobacco products,” Fort said.
A Jackson County Chancery Court ruled Friday that Gov. Haley Barbour can challenge a 5-year-old court order sending $20 million a year into anti-tobacco programs.
Chancery Judge Jaye Bradley’s ruling allows the governor’s lawsuit to halt payments to the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi to move forward. She instructed attorneys to schedule a hearing.
Bradley also stopped the Partnership from spending its 2005 allotment of the state’s $120 million annual payment from a 1997 tobacco settlement. The decision allows the Partnership to intervene in the court order, as well.
“Even though everybody knows this issue will ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court, the judge’s decision at this preliminary stage is clearly a victory for the taxpayers,” Barbour said in a statement.
Under a 2000 Jackson County Chancery Court order, the group’s payment supports youth and adult tobacco cessation programs.
Barbour contends it is unconstitutional for a private organization to receive a portion of the state settlement. He wants the money channeled to the Mississippi Health Care Trust Fund with the rest of the settlement.
Former Attorney General Mike Moore, who founded the Partnership and serves as its chairman, said he was not surprised by the court’s decision.
“We expected that the court’s going to have the governor in to have his say,” Moore said. “I’m just surprised that the governor continues this fight.”
Moore filed the first state lawsuit against the tobacco industry to recoup health-related expenses caused by cigarette smoking. Mississippi was the first to reach a settlement with cigarette makers.
The Partnership’s next payment arrives in late December but is not budgeted until June 2006, he said.
Bradley’s restriction on spending the funds should not hamper the group’s efforts, Moore said. The Partnership has an annual $21 million budget.
Bradley’s order comes two weeks after a hearing to decide whether the governor could challenge the Partnership’s payments.
“The governor has an interest in seeing that funds awarded to the state are expended in accordance with legislative statutes,” Bradley wrote in her decision.
State Treasurer Tate Reeves joined Barbour in opposing the Partnership payment.
“I believe it is unconstitutional for $20 million that rightfully belongs to the people of Mississippi to be diverted to a private organization with no public accountability on the expenditure of those funds,” Reeves said in a statement.
Judge lets governor challenge payments to anti-smoking group
Dec. 16, 2005 EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. – Gov. Haley Barbour and others will be allowed to challenge a five-year-old court order that sends part of Mississippi’s tobacco lawsuit settlement to a private anti-smoking group, a chancery judge ruled Friday.
Chancellor Jaye Bradley’s ruling does not take the payments away from the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. But it does put this year’s $20 million on hold, meaning the money cannot be spent until the legal dispute is resolved, officials said.
“Even though everybody knows this issue will ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court, the judge’s decision at this preliminary stage is clearly a victory for the taxpayers,” Barbour said in a written statement.
Partnership chairman Mike Moore said the anti-smoking group already has been working with legislative leaders to answer their questions about how annual payments are spent. Moore said the Partnership volunteered to put this year’s payment on hold until questions are resolved, and is operating on last year’s budget anyway, so its programs would not be effected.
“It’s getting a little ridiculous at this point,” Moore said. “The governor is spending thousands of dollars to stop the most successful smoking prevention program in the country.”
Partnership spokeswoman Sharon Garrison said Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Billy McCoy “have shown a lot of support for these programs and we believe that they will work with us to make sure that (the programs) continue.”
The Partnership spends money on a host of programs, from smoking cessation to school nurses to anti-tobacco ads aimed at teenagers. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, based in Washington, has said Mississippi has one of the most effective anti-smoking programs in the nation.
Moore, a Democrat, filed a massive lawsuit against tobacco companies when he was the state attorney general in the mid-1990s, making Mississippi the first state to file such a suit. In 1997, Moore negotiated a multi-billion-dollar settlement for Mississippi. Legislators later agreed to put most of the annual settlement payments into a health care trust fund.
Moore reached a separate agreement with cigarette makers to sponsor an anti-smoking program in Mississippi, and he still serves as chairman of the Partnership’s board. When funding for the pilot program ran out after three years, Moore persuaded Bradley to issue the Dec. 22, 2000, court order that gives the Partnership $20 million a year of the $100 million-plus that the state collects for the lawsuit settlement.
Barbour, a Republican who became governor in January 2004, says the $20 million that goes to the Partnership should go through the normal state appropriations process, with legislators deciding how the money is spent.
State Treasurer Tate Reeves, a Republican, serves on the health care trust fund board and is siding with Barbour in the dispute over the $20 million.
In a written statement Friday, Reeves said: “I believe it is unconstitutional for $20 million that rightfully belongs to the people of Mississippi to be diverted to a private organization with no public accountability on the expenditure of those funds.”
Moore’s successor as attorney general, Democrat Jim Hood, has sided with the Partnership on the dispute over the $20 million.
Bradley wrote in her ruling Friday: “It is clear that both sides of this dispute, the Gov. and the Trust Fund and the Attorney General, believe they are serving the general public interest of Mississippi, however, they strongly disagree on the method that would best accomplish this goal.”
State high court says Barbour can seek relief in court over tobacco suit
Aug. 08, 2005 By GEOFF PENDER SUN HERALD
JACKSON – The state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Haley Barbour deserves his day in court now, not next year, in his attempt to strip the $20 million a year a private anti-smoking group receives from the state’s tobacco settlement.
Barbour, the Division of Medicaid and the Mississippi Health Care Trust Fund, led by state Treasurer Tate Reeves, challenged as unconstitutional the money the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi receives from the state’s tobacco settlement payments.
The private, nonprofit Partnership was founded by former Attorney General Mike Moore after he successfully sued Big Tobacco to recoup the state’s health expenses from smoking. The original settlement with tobacco companies requires cessation and prevention programs. In 2000, a Jackson County court ordered that $20 million a year of the state’s tobacco payments go to the Partnership.
The Partnership and Attorney General Jim Hood are fighting the governor’s lawsuit.
In May, a Jackson County Chancery Court judge ordered the challenge postponed for one year so the Legislature can hold hearings and study the issue. Barbour’s side appealed that delay to the Supreme Court.
The nine-member high court ruled Friday that the judge erred in delaying the matter for a year, with Justice James Graves Jr. dissenting from the majority and Justices George Carlson Jr. and Oliver Diaz Jr. not participating.
The next stop in the fight over $20 million in annual payments to an anti-tobacco program is the Mississippi Supreme Court.
At a fish fry Tuesday night in Hattiesburg, Gov. Haley Barbour made no secret that he intends to appeal the decision by a Jackson County judge to postpone the hearing over the tobacco money for a year.
The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi currently receives $20 million annually from the tobacco settlement payments. Barbour has long contested the payments, saying the courts do not have the right to decide how public funds are spent. Attorney General Jim Hood disagrees.
“This $20 million a year that’s going to a private charity would pay through Medicaid for health care for 50,000 Mississippi children for a whole year,” Barbour said. “Now that’s not right, and I think the Supreme Court will make it very plain that the reason the attorney general wanted a delay is because they know they’re going to lose.”
Judge could decide if court order funding Partnership stands
May 23, 2005 The Associated Press
PASCAGOULA — Arguments are expected to begin Tuesday in a case to determine if the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi will continue to receive $20 million per year.
The state Medicaid Division, at the urging of Gov. Haley Barbour, has filed a lawsuit to overturn a 2000 court decision which provides the Partnership with millions each year from the state’s payments from tobacco companies. The Partnership is a private anti-smoking group founded by former Attorney General Mike Moore.
Jackson County Chancery Judge Jaye Bradley could decide if the court order granting the money should be overturned.
Those close to the governor say the state Constitution gives the Legislature, not the court, the authority to appropriate state money.
“Our position, bottom line, is that it is a matter of law,” said James Heidelberg, a Pascagoula attorney representing Medicaid. “We believe that a court order appropriating state money to a nonprofit organization is not in accordance with the law or the Constitution.”
Moore disagrees, saying he received permission from legislative leaders to divert payments to the Partnership.
“The Legislature supports the Partnership just like it is,” Moore said. “This is not about the budget. With Haley, this is pure politics.”
In December 2000, a Jackson County Chancery Court ordered $20 million a year directed from Mississippi’s tobacco settlement to the Partnership.
Medicaid challenges annual payments of $20 million to partnership
April 14, 2005 By Shelia Byrd The Associated Press
Attorneys for the governor’s office of Medicaid and The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi will meet with a judge next month to set out a schedule for written arguments in a lawsuit that seeks to stop $20 million annual payments to the anti-tobacco group.
Jackson County Chancellor Jaye Bradley has scheduled the meeting for May 24 in Pascagoula, court officials said Wednesday.
In addition, state Treasurer Tate Reeves said the Mississippi Health Care Trust Fund Board has filed a separate motion to vacate a 2000 court order that directs the money to the partnership. No hearing date has been set on that motion.
Medicaid filed suit in February, arguing the money should be going to the financially struggling health care program instead of the private partnership headed by former Attorney General Mike Moore.
Reeves, chairman of the trust fund board, contends the money should go directly to the trust fund, created after Moore won a massive legal settlement for the state against the tobacco industry.
“All installment payments are required by statute to be deposited into the trust fund and may be expended only as appropriated by the Legislature,” Reeves said Wednesday.
In December 2000, Moore went to Jackson County Chancery Court and received an order taking $20 million a year from Mississippi’s tobacco settlement payments and directing it to the Partnership.
“We’re actually saying that the order that was handed down by the court is in violation of the Health Care Trust Fund statutes,” Reeves said.
Moore didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Moore has repeatedly described the programs as an integral part of the multibillion dollar settlement with the cigarette industry.
Moore has said the legal challenge will fail.
Gov. Haley Barbour, who also wants the money used for Medicaid, often cites a 2003 report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review. PEER said courts don’t have the authority to order how public money is spent.
Gov. Haley Barbour said Monday that he wants legislators to solve Medicaid’s budget problems before the program runs out of money at the end of this week.
“I cannot think of any worse public policy or any bigger dereliction of duties by elected officials than to let this program shut down,” Barbour said during a news conference. “I cannot imagine what the people of Mississippi would think if that happened.”
Republican Barbour said he still opposes raising cigarette taxes to help fund the health care program for the needy and elderly. He says he thinks there’s only one place legislators can find enough money – the state health care trust fund.
He wants them to take $200 million out of the fund’s $500 million balance. The fund was created with Mississippi’s massive lawsuit settlement against tobacco companies.
House and Senate negotiators continued meeting about Medicaid on Monday.
The program’s executive director, Dr. Warren Jones, said there are no requirements for Medicaid to give notice to patients or providers if services stop after Friday. Medicaid has a $268 million shortfall for the budget year that ends June 30.
Barbour, a former tobacco lobbyist in Washington, said a proposed cigarette tax that has passed the House would bring in only about $20 million before June 30. He said he opposes any other kind of tax increase.
One of the House negotiators, Rep. George Flaggs, said during talks at the Capitol Monday that it’s “unconscionable” for Barbour and senators to oppose raising taxes on companies that make harmful products when doing so would help fund Medicaid.
Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, said he voted for the proposed cigarette tax increase because “I couldn’t see myself standing up with a killer.”
That brought an angry response from Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, who said “not one, single tobacco company” had contacted him to fight a tax increase.
“Don’t say I’m standing up with killers,” Burton said.
A health advocate said if Medicaid shuts down, she’ll blame Barbour because she believes he’s keeping the Senate from voting on a cigarette tax increase.
“The biggest Band-Aid initiative of all is to just look at taking money out of the health care trust fund,” said Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald, regional director of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Waurene Roberson of Oxford said she wants state officials to solve Medicaid’s problems quickly. She said she received a letter last Friday from the nursing home where her mother lives, saying Roberson would have to start paying $145 a day if Medicaid runs out of money.
“Which is about what my salary is, or more than my salary,” said Roberson, 58, a graphic designer. “So I would have to quit my job and go on welfare, and I don’t know how we would pay for medicine then.
“There are people there (in the nursing home) who have no family,” Roberson said. “What’s going to happen to them?”
This is to express my pleasure over Gov. Haley Barbour seeking to give the Legislature control of tobacco settlement funds administered by The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi (“Medicaid files to seize $20M from anti-smoke group,” Feb. 11). It should, in reality, be called “The Partnership for a Healthy Mike Moore!”
It is crystal clear to me that former attorney general Moore is using these funds as a “campaign chest” for whatever political office he desires to occupy.
He showed how desperate he is to maintain control of them by taking children out of school and having them demonstrate at the Capitol and shout insults at the governor (“Teens rally against tobacco use,” Feb. 3). And he’s for a “healthy Mississippi?”
I am more than ready for him to move off the scene.
Gov. Haley Barbour has branded an anti-tobacco group as an illegally-formed organization that every year keeps $20 million of taxpayer’s money.
Former state Attorney General Mike Moore’s reaction to many critics of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi is simple.
“I am going to tear their heads off,” says Moore, who formed the group in 1998 with tobacco settlement money. Caught in the squeeze of the state’s tightest budget crunch in recent memory, the partnership’s award-winning program is under fire by state leaders looking for ways to stem an out-of-control Medicaid budget.
They accuse the partnership of violating the state constitution, refusing state audits and spending millions on TV ads when the money could be given to Medicaid, where it would be matched threefold with federal money to benefit 768,000 recipients.
“I think it’s wrong for the partnership to have that money,” Sen. Mike Chaney, D-Vicksburg, said. “I’m not opposed to what they do, but it’s a violation of the state constitution. … We need to fund the partnership with a state donation and take the money for Medicaid.”
Medicaid’s current-year budget of $419 million will be spent at the end of the month — four months shy of the end of the fiscal year. To make it through June 30, the agency needs another $268 million.
Moore said the partnership’s programs save money by preventing and reducing smoking-related disease. Most of the programs are for youths but some help adult smokers quit.
“The partnership is saving hundreds of millions of dollars in future health-care costs. It is so short sighted. There’s a deficit this year, and they want this money to plug the hole. This program prevents death and disease for generations.”
Moore said the partnership legally operates under a court order that was part of a 1997 settlement with tobacco companies to compensate states for health-care costs linked to smoking. Mississippi receives a settlement payment every year, and this year’s payment was $116 million — $20 million went to the partnership and the rest to Medicaid.
Barbour was the first to mention retaining the partnership’s funds when he released his proposed budget in December. A former tobacco lobbyist, the governor said he didn’t oppose most of the partnership’s mission.
One exception the governor’s office has questioned is a $19,000 bill for a statewide newspaper ad congratulating Moore for winning a national award from the Harvard School of Public Health.
“The Mike Moore ad that our tax money paid for is a perfect example of what we’re talking about,” governor’s spokesman John Arledge said. “When we have a situation where Mississippi’s Medicaid will go broke at the end of the month, is that type of ad for Mike Moore more important than life-saving medication and treatment for Mississippi’s poor and sick?”
Moore, the partnership’s chairman, said the newspaper ad was the first one in the organization’s seven years that used him as the subject. He said he understands the criticism.
“I can see it both ways. I always told them to stay away from having me in stuff,” he said. He added that the media company that handles the partnership’s advertising advises that a small portion of ads be used to promote the organization to boost its credibility.
The state Health Care Trust Fund board, which oversees how the state invests its settlement money, voted two weeks ago to pursue legal action to take the money away from the partnership.
“I personally am very concerned with the lack of oversight and lack of responsibility of state money that was received on behalf of Mississippi,” said state Treasurer Tate Reeves, a Trust Fund board member.
He said the board relied on a legislative committee’s report released in 2003 that concluded the partnership was illegal because the court order authorizing it to receive funding violated a constitutional provision that only the legislature spend state funds.
Moore disagrees with the report, saying the 1997 settlement was approved through a court order that stipulated how the settlement money was to be used.
Initially a two-year pilot program, the partnership was extended when Moore returned to the court in 2000 to have the order amended to continue funding. He said the modification was allowed in the original settlement.
While the partnership is a private corporation not under the jurisdiction of state audits, Moore said the organization is open with its funding. It files a detailed tax return and an annual audit, which are public records.
According to those documents, the partnership spends about $6 million annually on media productions and promotions.
“The tobacco companies spend money saying, ‘do smoke,’ and we spend money saying, ‘don’t smoke’,” Moore said. Other ads combat alcohol and drug use.
In anti-tobacco campaigns, Moore said the partnership has a proven record of success — a 28 percent reduction in high school-aged smokers and a 52 percent reduction among middle schoolers.
The Partnership also spends $5.3 million for school nurses and on-campus activities, $3 million for tobacco-treatment services and $3 million for community programs in counties across the state. Administrative costs, including 27 employees, are $1.8 million.
About of third of the partnerships funds go to public entities, including the state Health Department, Attorney General’s office and several cities, counties, schools and law enforcement departments.
He said the programs are evaluated, and surveys measure their success. Some programs have been placed on probation or dropped because they failed to meet standards, he said.
Chaney has investigated the group’s funding in past years. He said legislation cannot undo the court order and the ruling must be challenged if the state wants to control the $20 million.
Partnership’s results are good, but some chapters do strange things.
FOREST – It is an idea hopefully dead on arrival, but that is not stopping some Republicans and a handful of Democrats from trying to place the annual funding of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi under legislative control.
Gov. Haley Barbour, in his budget proposal, said the annual installments could help fund Medicaid shortfalls. He and other proponents of the idea think it absurd that a chancery court decides how some money is to be spent when every other dime flowing through the state is controlled by the Legislature.
Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, has again filed a bill that says only the Legislature can appropriate monies in Mississippi. The bill has died for lack of action in the past, and it probably will meet the same fate this year.
Nonetheless, both Chism and Barbour have a point. It is rather ridiculous that a chancery court has appropriated this $20 million annual payment from the tobacco lawsuit settlement when the rest of the money falls under legislative control. It could be logically argued that the court decision sets a bad precedent.
But then one must consider why then-Attorney General Mike Moore decided to go through the courts instead of the Legislature to get this done. Perhaps he believed strongly in what he was doing, and he knew that while the Legislature would go along with it for a year or two, the Partnership’s set-aside would one day fall fate to other one-time money funds.
If not last year, it would be a safe bet this year would be that year.
But it is hard to argue with statistics as to the effectiveness of the Partnership in the state. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, smoking has decreased by 52 percent among middle school students and 28 percent among high school students over a five-year period.
Barbour has not ignored these statistics. In fact, the governor lauded the strides made by the Partnership. His only criticism is that the money could be better used to save Medicaid. But in essence, isn’t that what the Partnership is doing? By decreasing the number of young people who smoke, that will save the state money in the long run.
Barbour can see that as well. That’s why he proposes that the Partnership raise private funds to continue its work. He has said in previous interviews that he not only believes it can raise money for its programs but that it already is fund-raising.
Barbour’s educated assumption would be right, at least for some chapters. Sharon Garrison, spokesperson for the Partnership, said individual chapters are allowed to seek other grants to fund anti-smoking campaigns.
Where the Partnership may run into the most trouble is not the amount of money it spends to curb smoking among young people but in the lack of accountability it has over some of these chapters.
Again, the results speak for themselves. If the Partnership programs are working, then so must be the large majority of the individual chapters.
But some chapters, such as the Partnership for a Healthy Scott County, leave question marks. The chapter, which serves Scott, Newton, Leake and Jasper counties, is currently seeking to start a public transportation system for Scott County (without doing a feasibility study). It is also active in a few schools with an abstinence (from sex, not cigarettes) program. And it has constructed a technology resource center.
These are all laudable programs or goals – even if some have been unwisely undertaken – but they have little to do with curbing under-age smoking. Save a few scholarships given out each year, the Scott County chapter’s anti-smoking campaigns are almost non-existent in the schools.
So when the state is talking about cuts that could potentially take away health-care benefits from old or poor people, looking at trimming the Partnership’s funds becomes appetizing.
Mind you, it would be an unwise short-term fix, but without better accountability for all individual chapters, not just some or even most chapters, it remains a topic for debate. http://www.zwire.com/
Keep the children out of the crossfire of tobacco fight
Feb. 06, 2005 Mike Moore and Haley Barbour are political heavyweights and each is entirely capable of standing his own ground in their public disagreement over the use of Mississippi’s tobacco-settlement funds.
But it was shocking last week to see the state’s former attorney general standing on the steps of the Capitol leading 1,500 students bused from around the state in a chant: “Haley Barbour is hazardous to the health of Mississippi, Haley Barbour is hazardous to the health of Mississippi.”
The father of a Vancleave High School student, upon learning that his child had been involved in the well-orchestrated and highly partisan event, reacted as we would imagine many, if not most, parents and taxpayers would to the highly inappropriate activity – with anger and outrage.
Richard Cooley said the obvious: It didn’t matter which politician committed the grievance, he would have been equally upset had the governor abused his power in enlisting students in the highly personal feud between two powerful political leaders. It was just plain wrong for it to have occurred, period.
The event raises many more questions than it answers. Did school authorities and parents know in advance that the students would be used in this manner? Could it happen again? Who is responsible for approving these trips which remove so many from the classrooms and from their regular curriculum? Who paid for the cost of busing so many, in some instances over vast distances, to attend the event?
But the cost is the least significant of the concerns. The central question is this: What can be done to assure parents that their students will never again be drawn into such political controversy without their oversight and permission? And even should a parent approve of such activity, what is to protect the taxpayers of the state from a politician who chooses to enlist students in his partisan causes? Strong and immediate steps must be taken to protect us from any similar lapse in the future.
The fight between Mike Moore and Gov. Haley Barbour involves significant questions of public interest, and a fierce debate can be expected in the days ahead as these two extremely strong adversaries seek to win public support for their respective positions. Some observers believe this could be the beginning of a protracted political fight that will become the next race for governor. All t