Plan for tobacco settlement finalized
Senators in two legislative committees during a joint meeting Thursday gave unanimous approval to a plan for dividing $50 million a year in national tobacco settlement money.
Sen. Roger Wehrbein, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he is "optimistic" the plan will hold together during debate by the full Legislature.
The proposal to spend about $50 million on a variety of health programs was worked out during a series of private meetings between senators and governor's staff and joint meetings of two committees, the Appropriations Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee.
The 16 senators involved could form a powerful block of votes to keep others from dipping into the $50 million.
"There are a lot of players, a lot of issues and a lot of meetings," Wehrbein said of the process. Most senators on the two committees are fairly comfortable with the distribution, he said.
LB692 will be the vehicle for distributing the money the state will receive from the national tobacco settlement.
The bill distributes the funding as follows:
$5 million for continuing a current grant program.
$7.5 million to increase provider rates for mental health and substance abuse programs.
$2.5 million to increase rates for psychiatric care at hospitals.
$6.5 million for expanding community-based mental health programs.
$3 million the first year and $5 million the second to reduce the waiting list for persons with developmental disabilities.
$1.5 million for emergency protective custody services.
$1 million for mental health services to juveniles through the Office of Juvenile Services.
$6 million to build public health systems across the state.
$2.5 million for public health work relating to minorities.
$1 million for respite care.
$10 million for research at the University of Nebraska, Creighton University and Boys Town.
$500,000 for a legislative study of publicly funded health services in the state.