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Redirecting anti-tobacco funds constitutional, Ohio high court rules

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 10, 2011

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A ruling by the Supreme Court of Ohio gives state officials the right to divert funds from a tobacco prevention trust fund into a stimulus package designed to create jobs.

The decision stems from a debate that started in 2008, when Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland announced a $1.5 billion stimulus plan that would be partially funded by reallocating $230 million from the state's then-$264 million Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund. Tobacco fund trustees and two former smokers who had participated in Ohio cessation programs filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the action.

A trial court in 2009 agreed with the plaintiffs, finding that the endowment fund was an "irrevocable trust" and that transferring the funds violated the United States and Ohio constitutions. But the appellate court overturned that ruling.

The Supreme Court on Dec. 22 upheld the Ohio Court of Appeals decision that transferring the money did not violate the state's constitution (link).

"The question whether it is wise to enact legislation is not the same question as whether the legislation is constitutional," the court said.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/01/10/prbf0110.htm.

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