The 10th anniversary of the tobacco master settlement agreement (see below) reminds us that no week goes by without a political or legal dispute somewhere in the nation over the agreement's provisions or, more frequently, the distribution formulas established by each of the states. Just one example, from my former home of North Dakota:
On November 4, voters approved by 54-46 percent Ballot Measure No. 3. Ballot summary: "This measure would establish a tobacco prevention and control advisory committee and an executive committee; develop and fund a comprehensive statewide tobacco prevention and control plan; and create a tobacco prevention and control trust fund to receive tobacco settlement dollars to be administered by the executive committee." For more on Ballot Measure No. 3, see the Secretary of State's office.
As the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids explained in a news release:
North Dakota has been receiving about $40 million a year in tobacco-generated revenues from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but currently spends only $3.1 million a year in state funds on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Measure 3 will increase North Dakota's investment to the $9.3 million recommended by the CDC.
Chairman of the campaign was former Democratic Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, who was involved in the negotiations over the master settlement and who was mightly incensed when the Legislature decided to spend most of the proceeds on education and water development. From The Williston Herald:
"North Dakota for 10 years will receive on the average a little bit under $14 million a year as really a reward for the work the AG's office did," she said. "I said if ever there was a time to again pursue an idea to have a fully funded, comprehensive program in North Dakota, that we should do it."
Heitkamp and the tobacco control advocates did discuss the idea of going back to the Legislature one more time, but they all "realized that those attempts had been woefully unsuccessful in the past. So we said, 'What about initiated measure?'"
In a small state like North Dakota, $14 million goes a long way in buying education, prevention and lecturing. People are going to get very, very tired of all the public service announcements interchangeably scolding and edifying.
Personal disclosure below...
Disclosure: I worked for North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer during the 1999 legislative session when he signed the distribution formula and was the press secretary in John Hoeven's successful campaign for governor against Heitkamp in 2000.