Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive March 2015 Show 1511 Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1511

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1511

This week on Oklahoma Horizon, we examine the impact of a historic lawsuit on the health of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1511

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1511

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Oklahoma Settlement Endowment Trust

Show Details

Show 1511: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: March 15, 2015



Frank Keating: It was very consistent with the culture of Oklahoma to eat too much and to walk too little and to smoke too much. We traditionally and consistently had a smoking problem.

Doug Matheny: We ranked among the lowest for general health status and certainly for smoking and tobacco use rates.

Drew Edmondson: Oklahoma had historically ranked very low among the states in our incidence of the quality of our health. Where we should be high, we were low. Where we should be low, we were high. One of the reasons obviously that Oklahoma’s health ranked low in the nation was because our incident of smoking ranked high in the nation.

Ray Vaughn: Yeah, the numbers that we used back then, I, as I recall, there was at least $2 billion a year in lost revenue based on treatment of tobacco-related illnesses and based on lost productivity.

Robert McCaffree: They have destroyed so many lives over the years due to their lies, deliberate lies. It’s not that they didn’t know what was going on, they have known for over 50 years what they’ve been doing and they have lied about it.

I believe nicotine is not addictive, yes.

I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

And I, too, believe that nicotine is not addictive.

McCaffree: I often say that the tobacco industry is the only truly evil legal industry in the United States. And I define evil as somebody who knowingly and willingly harms others for their own enrichment. And that is a perfect description for the tobacco industry.

What cigarette do you smoke doctor? Once again, the brand named most was Camel.

Edmondson: The tobacco industry had never lost a lawsuit and it never settled a lawsuit in its history. No one had ever collected a dime from the tobacco industry for a loved one who died of cancer or for their own illnesses. And that, that was the climate in Oklahoma when the litigation started.

Edmondson: As the documents that they were uncovering in the discovery process became known, I became more and more convinced that win or lose, this was a righteous lawsuit. The industry referred to our kids as replacement market. In their own documents they referred to cigarettes as nicotine delivery devices. And the callous nature of their corporate thinking at, to my way of thinking, have, was damaging my state and that I would be remiss if I did not take legal action against them.

Mike Moore: We are here today to announce what we think is, we know, we believe, is a most historic public health achievement in history. We have reached agreement in principle with the tobacco industry.

Edmondson: And every one, the prepared, the relief that I asked for in the district court in Oklahoma, it answered and so much more in the context of this proposal. So I will sign it in behalf of the state of Oklahoma with pride and with assurance that we will continue the work. And with further assurance, children of my state and in every state will be safer in the future because of the work that my colleagues not only in this room, but across the nation.

Ben Robinson: When the money was assured of coming in, we started getting a lot of bond salesmen from New York. They came at a regular time every week nearly to try and convince us to sell a big bond issue, pay for it with the money that was coming in from the Tobacco Settlement Agreement.

Peter Fisher: I think the initial lure of securitization was, particularly in states where they were physically squeezed was, uh, “Hey, look, we can get, you know, $600 million right now and fix our budget hole. Oh, and by the way, we’re giving up, you know, the next 20 years of MSA payments.”

Robert Butkin: The normal budgetary process in Oklahoma is highly short-term in nature. Every year, the legislature must certify with the State Board of Equalization, must certify how much money the state is going to have for available spending. Typically there’s a focus on meeting short-term needs over the course of a fiscal year, perhaps two fiscal years.

Robinson: You can find a lot of great things every year to spend an awful lot of money for in the legislature. They could have built a lot of roads. They could have built buildings. They could’ve done a lot of things with the money that was available.

Jari Askins: And for a state that had needs that was very, very tempting.

Fisher: And nobody looked sort of long-term, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. The money’s gone. They’re losing money on the deal. And there’s no way to get that money back.

Askins: I had the opportunity to be the House author of the legislation two times as we tried to create by statute a trust to be the repository for the settlement funds that would come into the state of Oklahoma. The first year that we passed that uh, passed that legislation, the governor vetoed that legislation. So we brought the legislation again the following year, and we passed the House, and the Senate held the legislation the second year until we could get an agreement that the governor would sign the bill if it passed a second time. We were not able to get that agreement.

Keating: I felt to, basically just turn all of this potential money, upwards of $2 billion over 25 years to the vagaries of the legislative political process without any input from professionals on the outside and executive branch officials on the inside with their own State Department of Health and other agencies was a mistake.

Askins: The following year, the Senate and the House leadership came to an agreement to use the opportunity to make a constitutional change by a state question. And so State Question 692 was put on the ballot.

Edmondson: And ultimately it passed by a two to one margin. The “Save It, Grow It, Spend It On Health” slogan, I think, was very popular with the people as was the fact that this money would be protected from the legislature, that this would be spent for the purposes for which it was intended and would not be diverted to prisons or roads or the other truly urgent needs of the state. But not dealing with hell. So it passed, and the apparatus was set up, and the rest is history.

Ben Brown: This idea for a constitutional amendment was meant to ensure that it won’t be easily changed. Now it can be changed again but it would again require a constitutional amendment. And hopefully the wisdom of the voters will continue to protect that.

Keating: Well, my first impression was that this is the way to go. In other words, to have the public involved in the decision by a constitutional amendment was wise public policy. And I think in terms of how this whole process was constructed to have a vigorous debate and then find the best ideas and move that forward was the reason I think that we can look back with considerable pride as a state that we did it in the right way.

Butkin: It gave me an opportunity to see the political process at its best. Again, there is no partisanship, you know, we had Republicans, Democrats, Independents, governor’s office, the business community throughout the state, health care community throughout the state and just concerned citizens all coming together to push for the enactment this constitutional amendment.

Edmondson: There were other states that established trust funds but they were statutory, which meant the first time the state got into a fiscal crunch, the legislature could raid it and take the money. And that has happened in other states. Other states took the revenue stream and immediately cut taxes. Other states just simply put the money into the general fund and spent it on the various needs of state government. Only Oklahoma, only this state, has protected its money in the constitution and guaranteed it would be spent on what the lawsuit was all about and that is the health of its citizens. We stand alone in that distinction.

Butkin: Under the terms of the constitutional amendment as the folks know two separate boards were created, one is an investment board whose job it is to invest the millions of dollars every year coming to the state as part of the master settlement agreement. To invest that money prudently and to generate earnings that are then turned over to the expert board, the board of directors of the tobacco settlement whose job it is to identify health care needs and to allocate those funds in a cost-sensible way.

Tracey Strader: The board consists of seven different members, they’re each appointed by a different elected official. We have to have one board member from each of our five congressional districts, but we can’t have more than two from any single district. And then of the seven, not more than four can be from any single political party. That means that no single elected official, no geographic region of the state and no single political party will have control over this spending or the decisions that are being made. That’s important because I think the people of Oklahoma can rest assured that the funding decisions are not being made for political purposes or personal gain. The funding decisions really are being made with the best interests of the people and the state of Oklahoma in mind.

Gov. Mary Fallin: Oklahoma is the model for the rest of the nation because we were the first and the only state that protected our master settlement agreement money or tobacco settlement money by the formation of the TSET, which I think is great wisdom back that many, many years ago that we would set aside that money so we would have it for future generations.

Robin Koval: You know, I think all of us look at what Oklahoma has done with their master settlement funds as, uh, I mean, very forward-thinking. This is not a battle that is won in years. It’s really won in decades.

Karla Sneegas: You can’t just do best practices for a year and expect it to magically be the silver bullet that’s going to solve everything. You’ve got to keep that commitment over time. And that’s what Oklahoma has been able to do through the specific model that they set up, which was unique. What Oklahoma did in the beginning to set up the TSET program as a sustainable model for comprehensive tobacco control was stellar.

Butkin: Dealing with the problems generated by the tobacco industry in our state require a multidimensional and multiyear and multigenerational strategy. You must have a perpetual program to deal with problems that are going to be perpetual in their nature.

Fisher: I think that just about 28 percent of the smoking rate when TSET was established, and now it’s down to 23 percent. You know, that kind of decline is to be envied. Oklahoma appears to be doing a really terrific job and actually using the money to reduce tobacco use.

McCaffree: We no longer are 48, 49, 50 in terms of our adult smoking rate. We are now the 39th worse state among other states with adult smoking prevalence. So I, we are having an impact, we have had an impact.

Susan Bize: We chose programs that we thought could get the most bang for the buck. And one of the first was the Quitline, our helpline, as it’s called now, which could have statewide impact, would give people an opportunity to call in and get a counselor and help them stop.

Strader: It won’t be very long before the earnings, just the earnings alone from our investments, will be more than the deposits that are coming in each year from the tobacco companies. That’s the kind of genius, that’s the kind of strategy that really is a very long-term commitment to Oklahoma, to the revenue that will be generated and to the programs that will be funded and to the improvement in health status.

McCaffree: This fund is actually going to be there long past I’m gone, long past my children, my grandchildren are gone. This will be there for generations.

Tracy Foor: Our initial goal was to focus on cessation and tobacco prevention. But there were four other things mentioned in the constitutional language and the overall health of the citizens of Oklahoma was the primary, or, or maybe all-encompassing focus of that language. It’s just logical that having spent time and money and resources on tobacco cessation that we reach out into other areas.

Casey Killblane: And so we really think that we need to look at the whole spectrum. And, and it’s fitness, it’s nutrition, it’s the choices we make.

Brian Maddy: And I think it’s really starting to resonate that we’ve gotta be more responsible to our health. And I think it’s great that we have an organization with the resources that TSET’s going to have, has now and will have in the future to really make a difference.

Jim Gebhart: I believe that our children are the most vulnerable. And, of course, they’re the ones most susceptible to the deceptive tobacco advertisements. And so I love it when TSET’s able to help schools, especially elementary schools with programs that assist them in educating the youth of Oklahoma.

George Foster: Communities of excellence are local communities who have been awarded grants to make a difference. This is a giant step where people will make a difference in the public health arena and move that needle, move that needle from being the worst in the United States to, that we could be the best that we can do.

Gebhart: So one of the most exciting things about TSET is they focus on the entire state. So we have programs and grants that help communities of all size. So they help urban areas, and they help people in the urban areas, but they also assist communities that might not have the resources to improve their health.

We have community grantees across the state. They really are the heart and soul of, I think, the programs that TSET funds. You know, in the communities they’re able to do a lot of awareness raising, public education work with business and schools and faith communities and youth so that everybody understands that they have a role to play in reducing these problems that are causing us so much pain and death and disease in Oklahoma.

Ken Rowe: We felt an obligation to try to help find cures and treatments for diseases that were caused by tobacco. We’ve invested in research, and then we’ve gone back and we’ve invested more. But for every dollar that we’ve invested, we’ve had others investing $3.

Strader: We have made a significant investment in the Stevenson Cancer Center and the Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research and the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center. Our funding helps them leverage other resources so that they can recruit new scientists to the area. And I’m very pleased to say that because of TSET funding, the Stevenson Cancer Center’s phase one clinical trials is now among the top 10 in the nation.

Rowe: Oklahoma went from basically never discussed in terms of clinical trials for cancer care to being a major player in the United States.

Foster: TSET has been funding primary care physicians going to rural areas. If we can get primary care family doctors into the rural areas, it creates access.

Vaughn: I believe that my involvement with the TSET creation certainly ranks at the top of all the legislation I’ve and offered in and dealt with. And I’m very, very proud of it.

McCaffree: This was the best decision that the people of Oklahoma have ever made regarding how they dealt with the, with the funding stream coming in. To help the people of Oklahoma and to improve the health in the society in Oklahoma is tremendously satisfying to me.

Edmondson: I have not been involved and I can’t imagine being involved in anything with greater import than the tobacco litigation.

Butkin: Oklahoma will be a better place, and my daughters will live in a more prosperous, healthier, stronger community because of what the people of Oklahoma did enacting this constitutional amendment. So I’m tremendously proud of what’s been accomplished.