The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

April 25, 2012
Legislation to encourage flu shots progresses

After initially stalling, legislation intended to encourage health care workers to get flu shots was approved today by the Senate labor committee.

Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is carrying SB 1318, described in this column, to require that nurses and other health care workers wear masks when they are near patients if they opt against getting annual flu shots.

Physicians, hospitals, county public health officers and others are backing the measure as a way to convince health care workers to get flu shots.

However, major unions including the California Nurses Association and Service Employees International opposed the measure. The bill next moves to the Appropriations committee.

April 15, 2012
Tobacco ally Grover Norquist jumps into tobacco tax fight

Grover Norquist shocked no one when his Americans for Tax Reform based in Washington, D.C., sided with the tobacco industry by opposing Proposition 29 on the June ballot to raise the California tobacco tax by $1.

Nor should it surprise anyone that Norquist long has done business with the tobacco industry, as documents in UC San Francisco's massive online tobacco library show. Those documents became public as a result of settlements of suits against the industry in the 1990s and early 2000s. 

In one letter, Norquist solicited a modest sum, $2,000, to help fund an expansion of his campaign to convince state legislators to sign the anti-tax pledge that he continues to push.

Whether Norquist received that $2,000 isn't readily apparent from the documents. But other tobacco papers suggest Americans for Tax Reform was a regular recipient of tobacco industry largess in the 1990s.

Nonprofit corporations such as Americans for Tax Reform are under no obligation to reveal their donors, and generally don't.

Occasionally, however, donations become public, as occurred when tobacco companies were compelled to release internal documents.

Some documents showing donations to Americans for Tax Reform can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Norquist aide Patrick Gleason didn't respond to inquiries about the tobacco donations, but questioned the news value of "a story on the fact that ATR opposes a tax increase, whatever it may be on."

"ATR doesn't think a tax increase that targets those with below average incomes and does nothing to rectify the state's overspending problem is sound policy," Gleason said in an email.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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