Last week House Republicans on a Rules subcommittee defeated HJ626, a measure that would have directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to conduct a review of the effectiveness of the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (TICR) in its efforts in meeting its strategic plans and goals.
Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) introduced the bill based on recommendations from a Blue Ribbon Review Panel report requested by the Tobacco Commission to review its structure and operations. In its report, the Panel highlighted concerns over the Tobacco Commission’s structure and operations and made numerous recommendations including:
Ask JLARC, or other appropriate entity, to conduct a performance evaluation of TICR strategy and investments being made to meet the adopted strategic plan and goal of regional economic revitalization. Use JLARC, or other appropriate entity, to help recommend and implement suitable program accountability measures.
According the Blue Ribbon Panel report, “Using JLARC to evaluate the TICR economic revitalization strategy and assist with implementing outcome metrics and accountability measures would be helpful to the ongoing operations of the TICR.”
The mission of the Tobacco Commission is the promotion of economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement. To date the Commission has approved more than 1,049 grants totaling almost $502 million.
There has never been a performance audit of the TICR since its inception in 1999.
Although he was unable to be in attendance at the subcommittee meeting, Tobacco Commission member Jack Hite weighed in on the legislation stating, “As a member of the Virginia Tobacco Commission I supported the Baliles Commission’s recommendations including the JLARC review.”
“An objective audit by an independent group such as JLARC is not something that we should be afraid of,” said Delegate Armstrong. “Independent performance evaluations are considered a ‘best practice’ measure for private businesses and organizations. We owe it to the citizens of the Commonwealth, especially in these tough economic times, to engage in similar best practices to ensure that these large sums of money are being used and directed in the most efficient and effective ways possible.”
Philip Leone, Director of JLARC, testified before the subcommittee that JLARC was willing and able to conduct the review of the Tobacco Commission.