Originally published in Synapse on Nov. 30, 2006.Tobacco tax propositions in California, Missouri and South Dakota failed in the November election. However, Arizona passed an increase of 80 cents (total tax 97 cents) to their cigarette tax.
Arizona's tax will fund health and education programs for children ages five and younger, including programs to help improve childhood immunizations and to reduce infant mortality rates.
Californians rejected the tax that would have funded Emergency Department services, expanded health programs for low-income children, provided funding nursing education to help reduce the impact of the projected nursing shortage, funded cancer research, and tobacco cessation and prevention programs.
One of the most effective advertisements opposing the tax featured Dr. LaDonna White from the "Golden State Medical Association," the California affiliate of the National Medical Association representing African American physicians.
In a news segment she said their opposition was based on a loophole in the proposition that exempted hospitals from some anti-trust laws that might result in hospitals limiting competition and driving up prices and insurance premiums.
Missouri's opponents to the tax, such as convenience stores and tobacco companies, successfully convinced voters that the measure unfairly targeted smokers and that providers who treat Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsured residents would get most of the revenue rather than smoking cessation programs.
South Dakotans defeated their one dollar tobacco tax increase based on arguments that it unfairly targeted smokers and it would have reduced tobacco tax revenue for the state because of the decrease in sales of tobacco tax.
This measure included a promise to divide any excess revenue to reduce property taxes and it still failed.
Other health measures decided by voters
Oregon voters passed a law to expand a state prescription drug program to cover all state residents without coverage regardless of age or income.
This is an expansion of Oregon's program which currently provides 30% to 60% discounts on medication to about 150,000 residents without pharmaceutical coverage who are over 55 years of age and who have an annual income of $18,130 or less.
Oregon voters defeated a measure that would have required physicians to notify a parent at least 48 hours before performing an abortion on a minor between the ages of 15 and 17.
California defeated Proposition 85, a measure requiring physicians to notify parents before performing abortions on minors.
The proposition was similar to Prop. 73 which was defeated in 2005. Planned Parenthood was the largest contributor to the No on 85 (and no on 73) campaigns and now must recover from two expensive campaigns.
South Dakota voters rejected a law that had passed the state legislature that would have banned all abortions in the state except to save a pregnant woman's life.
The state law had been signed by Governor Mike Rounds (R) and would have made it a felony to perform an abortion in South Dakota.
Physicians convicted of performing an abortion would have faced a minimum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The vote was 55% to 45% to reject ban.
In Missouri, voters approved measure that would amend the state constitution to ensure that stem cell research, permitted under federal law, is protected in the state, however, it would prohibit cloning.
Women's health policies play important role in Democratic victories Four U.S. Senate races were won by Democrats where abortion rights and stem cell research were key issues.
In Florida, the state where President Bush's brother is governor, Bill Nelson (D) defeated Representative Katherine Harris (R) (famous for her role in the 2000 Presidential election) in the race for U.S. Senate.
The Miami Herald reported that Harris said not electing Christians was "legislating sin, such as abortion rights."
She also opposed human embryonic stem cell research (reported by Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report 9/6). Representative Ben Cardin (D) won the Maryland U.S. Senate race defeating statewide office holder Michael Steel (R).
Steel described stem cell research as the "destruction of human life" and compared it to Nazi experimentation on Jewish people during the Holocaust (a statement he later apologized for and modified his position to support research that allows scientists to extract cells without destroying the embryo).
In Missouri, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Claire McCaskill, who wants to keep early abortion safe and legal, also supports a ban on late term abortions and supports parental notification, ousted U.S. Senator Jim Talent, who would allow abortion only to protect a pregnant woman's life or in the case of rape or incest.
Key in this race was the ballot measure permitting stem cell research in the state constitution, which McCaskill supported and Talent opposed.
The Democratic majority in both the U.S. House and Senate, means that Congress is likely to again pass stem cell research legislation and risk a second Bush veto, however state victories like this one are building the momentum for broader support of stem cell research.
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