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Lobbyist Money Help  

Senate tables tobacco money spending measure

May 10, 2000
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 763

JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate sponsor of legislation to allocate tobacco settlement money dropped his measure after the chamber tacked on a ban on using the money for abortion or abortional referrals.

The sponsor complained the proposal, which would require voter approval as a constitutional amendment, would turn the issue into an abortion campaign rather than tobacco.

Some of amendment's supporters acknowledged they were trying to force Gov. Mel Carnahan to the negotiating table on the abortion issue.

Within hours of the Senate's action, Carnahan did offer a compromise -- that he would sign companion legislation banning the money from going for abortions.

"This compromise should resolve the abortion issue so we can focus on the remaining issues," the governor said.

But Carnahan's offer was rejected immediately by anti-abortion leaders who said it did not prohibit the money from going to groups like Planned Parenthood.

At issue is a bill to create a trust fund where the tobacco money would be held before it is spent.

The conflict threatens to derail any decision of what to do with the pending tobacco money before the crucial 2000 elections. At the beginning of the session, Carnahan, who is running for the U.S. Senate against John Ashcroft, made spending the money on health projects one of his major priorities. If the plan is derailed, Carnahan will be deprived of an issue to trumpet in the campaign.

In an afternoon news conference, Carnahan voiced anger at the Senate action.

"If we want to be a state that continuously litigates over abortions, let's get with it," but if we want good policy, let's do that, he said.

He was referring to the on-going court battle between anti-abortion lawmakers and Planned Parenthood over whether state funds to the group indirectly fund abortions.

Anti-abortion lobbyists and legislators derided the governor's attempt at compromise.

The tabled bill is a proposed constitutional amendment that will let the voters decide if the money should be spent on health care.

In other legislative action Wednesday: