Tobacco loophole fix bill debated on Senate floor

The Missouri Senate last week spent several hours debating a bill, backed by AIM, that would close a loophole in the state’s master tobacco settlement, granting the state about $50 million in settlement funds.

Senate Bill 1096, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, would close a loophole that currently allows some tobacco companies to receive refunds of all money paid in to an escrow fund to offset government healthcare costs related to smoking.

“Allowing some companies to receive their money back while other do not means government is essentially preferring one tobacco company over another, allowing them to sell their products cheaper than those that are playing fair and paying to offset the healthcare costs incurred by government because of tobacco use,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. “The bill would level the playing field,” said McCarty.

It was originally thought Missouri would miss out on its share of the settlement if SB 1096 was not passed by April 15th, but a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster tells the Missouri Times that Missouri will still be eligible to recoup the money in the upcoming fiscal year if the legislature passes the bill, and it’s signed by the governor by June 3rd.

The bill has been placed on the Informal Calendar in the Senate, meaning it could come back up again at any time before the end of the session. But the clock is ticking. The Missouri General Assembly adjourns on May 13.