Arkansas lawmakers take look at tobacco settlement

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — State lawmakers said Thursday they want to look at changing a law voters approved spelling out how Arkansas should spend the millions of dollars it receives from a national settlement with tobacco companies.

Members of a legislative panel reviewing how the state has spent the $446 million it has received so far said changes may need to be made to the law voters approved in 2000.

Lawmakers are considering tapping into the $125 million reserve fund that the commission overseeing the settlement money created in case payments drop off, said Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins. Pritchard said the money could be used for other health programs, such as substance abuse prevention.

“That’s a lot of money that’s just sitting there,” Pritchard told reporters after the hearing.

Pritchard says up to 10 hearings on the issue are planned in the coming months. Changing the law would require a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate.

The tobacco industry reached a $206 billion settlement with 46 states, including Arkansas, in 1998 to cover the cost of treating sick smokers.


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