Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reason 8 to vote Democratic

Reason No. 8 to vote Democratic on Nov. 7: Save Mississippi’s anti-smoking programs.

When former Democratic Attorney General Mike Moore negotiated a settlement in 1997 to a lawsuit against the tobacco industry, a Jackson County Chancery Court judge established a tobacco prevention pilot program called the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.

Because of the program’s success, the chancery court later set aside $20 million a year to fund the Partnership. The organization then continued to spearhead anti-tobacco programs statewide and funded school nurses in some schools.

But Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, a former tobacco lobbyist, and Republican state Treasurer Tate Reeves filed suit. They argued it was unlawful for a court to appropriate money. Barbour won. The Partnership appealed.

And then, on Oct. 19, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi can’t spend any money from the state’s tobacco settlement until the Barbour lawsuit is finally settled.

The ruling, in effect, shuts down most of the Partnership’s programs – and leaves one of Moore’s greatest legacies dangling to life. If state legislators approve a proposal in the 2007 Mississippi Legislature to preserve the Partnership, it likely would need enough support to survive a possible Barbour veto.

You can help. Vote Democratic in races to fill four open state legislative seats – a state House seat on the Mississippi Coast, a state Senate seat in the Pine Belt and a House and Senate seat in the Delta – and help preserve the Partnership.


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