Another avenue sought for tobacco trust fund bill
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Supporters of tobacco trust fund legislation are going to take at least one more stab at passing a bill before the session ends at 6 p.m. today.
Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, has drafted substitute legislation to a youth smoking bill with a provision creating a trust fund for Missouri's share of the national tobacco settlement.
Caskey was preparing for a fight on the legislation, even though hopes for the the trust fund remain dim because of a lack of time.
``There are simply strategies that are playing out,'' Caskey said in an interview Thursday. ``I do what I have to do. If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose.''
Senate President Pro Tem Ed Quick, D-Liberty, who sponsored the original tobacco trust fund bill, said he hoped that Caskey's bill may be the vehicle that gets the legislation passed before the end of the day.
``We have a few hours left,'' Quick said. ``I'm glad to see this bill in the shape it's in, but do I expect a lot out of it? Only time will tell. We are down to one day.''
Tobacco legislation supporters in the House attempted to attach trust fund language to a bill dealing with Missouri courts, but were turned back 90-61 on Wednesday.
Anti-abortion lawmakers added to Quick's bill language that would prevent any of the proceeds from the estimated $6.7 billion settlement from being used for abortions and abortion services.
Caskey's revised bill -- which does not include abortion language -- comes after it appeared that negotiations on the original trust fund bill between Senate and House members would never take place because of the abortion language.
The trust fund provision is part of a bill in which people under 18 who are caught smoking could be fined and ordered to undergo counseling or community service -- but no jail time.
Retailers caught selling to minors could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Those caught selling tobacco products to those under 18 by mail or over the Internet would face a fine of $1,000 for a first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses.
Taken out of the original bill was a measure that would outlaw the sale of so-called gray-market cigarettes in Missouri, which are produced domestically for export but are instead resold in this country for lower prices.
Meanwhile, prospects for the passage of the tobacco spending plan remain dim after the Senate voted to keep abortion language in the proposed constitutional amendment that would be subject to voter approval.