ST. LOUIS -- A quarter of Missouri's proceeds from the national tobacco settlement will be designated for life sciences research starting in fiscal year 2007 under a measure signed into law Thursday by Gov. Bob Holden.
The governor was in St. Louis to sign seven bills, a day after signing more than two dozen other measures. He has until Monday to sign or veto bills, and must still take action on 43 of the 254 bills passed during the legislative session that ended in May.
Among other the measures signed Thursday were those declaring June 19 Emancipation Day and establishing a three-day sales tax "holiday" in August 2004.
The measure to fund life sciences -- research and development of ways to improve health, nutrition and quality of life -- passed easily in both chambers. The bill was sponsored by House Speaker Catherine Hanaway of Warson Woods and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau, both Republicans.
"This bill shows Missouri is serious about supporting the life sciences and will help us build on our current partnerships and develop new ones in all parts of the state," Holden said during a ceremony at the Center for Emerging Technologies.
In 1998, large tobacco companies agreed to pay a $206 billion national settlement to help states cover expenses in treating sick smokers. Missouri's payment, currently estimated at about $147 million annually, runs into perpetuity, a spokesman for Attorney General Scott Holste said. The actual amount is based on tobacco sales in the state. Based on the current amount, life sciences would get about $36.8 million annually.
The bill specifies that most of the money would be used for medical research. None can be spent on abortions or human cloning. The money is to be distributed to various parts of the state, including the St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield areas, and some would be directed to the four-campus University of Missouri system.
Another bill dealing with the tobacco settlement was among 27 signed by Holden on Wednesday. It limits to $50 million the bond that parties in tobacco lawsuits could have to post when appealing verdicts. That bill was in response to an Illinois case in which Philip Morris was ordered to post a $12 billion appeal bond. A judge later lowered the amount to $6 million after states expressed concern that the high bond could endanger their tobacco settlement payments.
The state will honor Emancipation Day, recognizing the end of slavery, on the same day known as "Juneteenth." June 19, 1865, is the date that some slaves learned they were legally free. Both the Senate and the House passed the bill without opposition. State offices would not be required to close.
The sales tax "holiday" bill lifts most state and local taxes during the second weekend (Friday through Sunday) of August 2004 for purchases of back-to-school items -- everything from clothing to pencils to personal computers. The measure is for one weekend only but could be renewed if it proves successful, a spokesman for Holden said.
Kinder, a sponsor of the bill, said similar measures have been successful in other states. Supporters say the legislation could help the economy -- giving a break to Missourians and encouraging people from neighboring states to shop in border cities such as St. Louis and Kansas City.
Holden also signed a bill Thursday extending the taxation of nonresident athletes and entertainers appearing in Missouri until fiscal year 2016. The current law would have expired in fiscal year 2008.
Late Wednesday, Holden signed a bill allowing Missourians to buy alcohol starting at 9 a.m., rather than 11 a.m., at stores, restaurants and some other places such as golf courses and pool halls. The law allows restaurants at Kansas City's Truman Sports Complex to sell alcohol as early as 8 a.m. on Sundays -- a privilege already allowed in the city of St. Louis.
The law also requires kegs to be registered to buyers -- a provision intended to track down adults who supply alcohol to underage drinkers. That requirement is not effective until July 1, 2004.
Also signed late Wednesday was a bill intended to make it harder for state and local governments to restrict the free exercise of religion.
On the Net:
Missouri Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us
Gov. Bob Holden: http://www.moga.state.mo.us