Measure to Allocate Tobacco Settlement Money Approved

By Amy Forliti Associated Press Messenger-Inquirer Online March 4, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana General Assembly gave final approval Friday to legislation that would spend a share of Indiana's tobacco settlement money on various health programs starting this year.

It also would create an advisory committee that would oversee how the money is doled out. Indiana has already received $94 million from tobacco companies and is expected to receive $200 million more over the next 18 months.

Details of the legislation, which has been relatively free of partisan politics all session, were hammered out by lawmakers Friday and approved late that night. The measure now heads to Gov. Frank O'Bannon's office.

"We have a deal -- he has come a long way," said Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, of Senate Finance Chairman Larry Borst's willingness to compromise.

"I'm still flabbergasted," Brown said.

Beginning July 1, the measure allocates $35 million to tobacco cessation and prevention programs, $20 million to help senior citizens pay for prescription drugs, $15 million to community health centers, a one-time $10 million payment to community health centers for capital improvements, and a one-time $1.5 million to be divided among county health departments.

"I've never seen us spend so much money with so little argument," said Rep. Michael Murphy, R-Indianapolis.

The money would be placed in a central fund, to be allocated by an executive advisory committee. The committee would include an executive director, four state officials, 11 members appointed by the governor who have knowledge in smoking cessation or health care, and six members from anti-smoking organizations.

"The conferees so far have bought the theory that if there's any tobacco cessation program in the state of Indiana using state funds, it has to go through this central authority -- so that's my unification," Borst said.

In the first year, the committee could spend half of the money in the central fund, and invest the other half. After that, 60 percent could be spent and 40 percent must be invested each year.

Earlier this session, Borst and fellow Senate Republicans had wanted to spend no money this year and require that 50 percent of it be invested in a trust, with only the interest to be spent.

A similar measure introduced by House Democrats, and supported by O'Bannon, would have tapped about $110 million for spending this year.

Borst said the prescription drug program for senior citizens was a sticking point during negotiations. While O'Bannon wanted the Family Social Services Administration to create and manage the program for low-income seniors, lawmakers wanted it out of the hands of the administration.

The measure creates a prescription drug advisory committee that will make recommendations on how to run the program. The FSSA would be required to abide by those recommendations, which could include contracting the program out to the private sector.

"I think there's going to be a tremendous amount of good done, all across the state, for people in need," Murphy said.

"This couldn't have happened if it wasn't for Larry Borst," he said.