County Wins First 5 Lawsuit

November 30, 2011 | 12:32pm

A Fresno judge last week issued a ruling saying state leaders acted illegally when they attempted to take $1 billion from the California Children’s Trust Fund administered by First 5 County Commissions, including San Diego’s. 

San Diego County will keep $88.4 million.

“We are delighted with the judge’s ruling in favor of the will of the voters and our children,” said Supervisor Pam-Slater Price, Chairwoman of the First 5 Commission of San Diego.  “San Diego can now use this money wisely for the benefit of the region, and that is to address the local needs of the children of our County.”

The County of San Diego was one of 12 counties who joined in a lawsuit against the state, led by the First 5 Commission of Fresno, in response to its passage of AB 99 in April 2011.  The case was heard in Fresno County.  AB 99 authorized the raiding of the Children’s Trust Fund which comes from a tobacco tax and is administered by First 5 Commissions.

Judge Debra Kazanjian ruled Nov. 21 the entire bill invalid and that transferring decision-making from local communities to the state legislature is inconsistent with Proposition 10. 

In 1998, California voters approved Proposition 10 that imposes a 50-cent tax on tobacco products.  First 5 Commissions are charged with dispersing funds for non-existing comprehensive services that support the healthy development of children from the prenatal stage through age 5.

“As a key partner in the County’s Live Well, San Diego! 10-year plan to build better health in the region, First 5 addresses the healthcare needs of our region's children in a way no other organization does,” said Nick Macchione, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) Director and First 5 Commissioner.  “This win will help improve lives for our youngest residents for many years to come.”

Since the passage of AB 99, First 5 San Diego has reduced or suspended several core initiatives in order to mitigate the loss of funds. 

“Despite the challenges of AB 99, First 5 San Diego has always remained committed to the vision that all children ages 0 through 5 are healthy, are loved and nurtured, and enter school ready to learn,” said Executive Director of First 5 San Diego, Barbara Jiménez.