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Ohio Tobacco Funding Case Reaches State Supreme Court

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The Ohio Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week over the fate of the state's Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation, which was stripped of its funding by state lawmakers, the Associated Press reported July 6.

Lawyers for the foundation told the court that lawmakers had no right to seize the program's $230-million endowment, which came from Ohio's share of the 1998 nationwide tobacco settlement and was placed in a protected fund. “The fact in evidence here is that the 123rd General Assembly plainly intended to create an irrevocable trust putting this money beyond the reach of subsequent general assemblies,” said attorney John Zeiger.

But Alexandra Schimmer, Ohio's chief deputy attorney general, argued, “This money is and has always remained state money. It has never been given to any entity that has any legal independence from the state.”

The state attempted to seize the money and shut down the foundation in 2008, but foundation officials responded by giving most of its funding to the American Legacy Foundation, a nationwide tobacco prevention program that is also a party to the lawsuit.

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