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HomeNewsArchivesTOBACCO SETTLEMENT MEETING POSTPONED

TOBACCO SETTLEMENT MEETING POSTPONED

A Friday meeting of the Senate Finance Committee scheduled to consider a new amendment to the tobacco settlement bill has been postponed.
Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus, sponsor of the amendment, has asked for more time to obtain consensus from all parties, according to a release from Sen. Lorraine Berry, committee chair.
At issue is the redistribution of the tobacco settlement funds.
Petrus is expected to amend his previous proposal to award 100 percent of the funds for health care.
The distribution of the funds was hastily voted into law in March 1998 to meet the deadline to sue the tobacco industry. At that time the Senate voted equal shares to the Health Revolving Fund and the Union Arbitration Fund.
Since that time, health interests in the community have objected to the split, claiming all the monies should go to health-related causes. The unions have not backed down, claiming their share of the proceeds.
In a Finance Committee meeting Feb. 8 Petrus introduced an amendment which would allow 20 percent of the monies to the unions and the balance to health-related causes. Both interests were heard in an all-day session, followed by another session the next day in St. Croix.
Glen J. Smith, St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers president, has pledged to use the union's share of the money to defray the cost of health insurance, or to set up a fund to pay deductibles or reimburse co-payments for prescription drugs for union members.
Health interests want, along with improving long-term care, to create a cancer center on St. Thomas. In leveraging the funds and being able to match federal grants with local money, health officials think the center is possible.
A new date for the meeting has not been announced.

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