JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate approved a bill Tuesday that could add about a cent to the price of every cigarette sold by some off-brand cigarette companies.
The measure was designed to provide a protection for the major tobacco companies that agreed to a $6.7 billion settlement this past November.
According to the tobacco settlement, the market share of participating tobacco companies cannot fall below 95 percent if the state is to hold onto its money.
"All this agreement does is make sure we get 100 percent of what we agreed to," said the bill's sponsor, Senate Pro-Tem Ed Quick, D-Liberty.
The ultimate point of the legislation, ironically enough, is to guarantee that tobacco companies continue selling enough cigarettes to maintain their ability to pay off billions in tobacco-settlement funds every year to the 46 states who signed the agreement last November.
"This legislation is based on these companies continuing to sell as many cigarettes as they have been selling?" asked Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis, of Quick.
"Over a period of time, I would hope that we would cut down smoking," Quick, himself a smoker, answered.
In somewhat unrelated business, some Republican Senators took Senate-floor discussion of the tobacco settlement to present amendments that would require the attorneys working for Attorney General Jay Nixon on the tobacco settlement to disclose the fees they will collect from the participating tobacco companies.
In an impassioned plea to the Senate, Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, asked that power be given to the General Assembly to pay the fees, which he said may otherwise be too high.
Currently, the fees are to be negotiated between the attorneys and the participating tobacco companies and are not public information.
"A rip off on this order is only possible if the public doesn't know about it," Kinder said.
Kinder's amendment, however, was defeated largely on party lines. The off-brand tobacco bill's next destination is the House, where some final changes could be made.