Bush signs bill named for Chiles to use tobacco funds for kids and seniors

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. (AP) May 13, 1999 - Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law Thursday a bill which pays tribute to his late predecessor's battle against cigarette makers and ensures tobacco money will be used to help kids and seniors.

The Lawton Chiles Tobacco Endowment for Children and Elders sets aside $1.7 billion from the state's tobacco settlement. The interest will be used to improve Florida's ailing child welfare system, to pay for cancer research and to provide more home care for elders, among other programs.

``It's something the rest of the nation will look to,'' Bush said as he signed the bill flanked by young, single mothers who participate in the Healthy Families program in Riviera Beach.

Earlier in the day, Bush held another ceremonial signing at the Northwest Focal Point Senior Center in Margate.

Florida stands to earn about $13 billion from cigarette makers, who agreed to settle a lawsuit over the public cost of treating sick smokers. Chiles spearheaded the fight by forcing a measure through the Legislature in 1994 that stripped the industry of its typical blame-the-smoker defense.

That measure eventually was repealed, but only after the settlement.

In one of the last interviews before his death in December, Chiles called the tobacco fight one of the toughest battles of his 40-year political career.

``So much of his career focussed on helping children, the least able to do for themselves, the most frail in society,'' said Rep. Jerry Maygarden, R-Pensacola, the House sponsor of endowment legislation. ``It's a way of remembering that and putting it foremost in the minds of the public.''

Bush signed the bill at two places which stand to benefit from the endowment. At the Women's Service Network, he met with three young mothers - and two newborn babies - who are participating in the new Healthy Families program, which provides in-home training for parents from the prenatal stage and aims to prevent abuse.

The governor shared stories of being a young parent.

``I always did the night shift,'' he recalled, admitting he actually looked forward to the 2 a.m. strolls around the house alone with his first born son. ``You don't get sleep-deprived. You get used to it.''

Patricka Johnson, 18, and Ernest Hall, 21, listened with interest to his stories - then told the governor they were parents to children ages 20 months and 2 months.

``He's really busy,'' Johnson joked, giving her boyfriend nudge.

When the couple left, Hall carried two bags of diapers under his arm.



MAY 13, 1999

Press Release

Governor Jeb Bush

TALLAHASSEE -- Governor Jeb Bush on Thursday signed into law the Lawton Chiles Tobacco Endowment for Children and Elders legislation that will use tobacco settlement monies to insure the financial health of vital children's and seniors' programs.

"Today I am signing legislation that will honor the legacy of Governor Chiles by providing financial security for the future of Florida's vital childrens' and seniors' programs," Governor Bush said. "While other states are planning to use their tobacco monies for a patchwork of unrelated programs, Florida is now leading the nation with a unique and fiscally responsible approach to investing tobacco monies into programs that will improve the standard of living of Florida's children and seniors."

Governor Bush traveled to Broward and Palm Beach counties for two signing ceremonies at facilities that will benefit from the new legislation. In Broward county the Governor signed the legislation at the Northwest Focal Point Senior Center in Margate, and in Palm Beach county the Governor held the second signing ceremony of the day at the Women's Service Network facility in Riviera Beach.

Here is how the endowment will work: Future unencumbered tobacco settlement monies will be put into the fund, allowing the endowment's principal to grow to at least $1.7 billion within 4 years. The endowment's principal will remain untouched, while the interest earnings generated by the endowment will be used to pay for the growth in areas certain to experience greater demands over the years, such as:

* Children's health programs, including Kidcare

* Improvements to Florida's ailing child welfare system, and

* Elder programs, such as Community Care for the Elderly, that enables seniors to receive home and community services, allowing them to age rather than being forced into a nursing home.