Oklahoma City - Freshman Senators Greg McCortney and Adam Pugh, along with House author Representative Mark McBride have filed a bill that will reform the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.
Senate Bill 1149 stabilizes TSET by allowing the board to spend 5 percent of the principal of the corpus as opposed to the current structure which allows 100 percent of the earnings to be spent. All three legislators agreed the reform allows TSET to make wise, long-term commitments to projects including funding for cancer research through the Stephenson Cancer Center and grants to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
“Our goal was to maintain the integrity of the wonderful work TSET is currently supporting through some of these organizations and allow a more focused vision on the type of support that will benefit the health of Oklahoma and our citizens” said Pugh, R-Edmond.
Among the additional changes, a portion of new settlement revenue will be sent to public education programs that are health-centric such as speech language pathology, special education support and teachers, and resources for continued health programs in schools.
“TSET has done an incredible job addressing cigarette addiction. I’m excited to expand addiction programs to address the many challenges facing our state,” said McCortney, R- Ada. “This bill provides the necessary flexibility and revenue to help us combat opioid addiction. As we are able to responsibly redirect incoming monies to other agencies on the frontlines of this battle, we are confident this will not hurt the core mission of TSET.”
McBride, R- Moore, said he was pleased about the collaborative nature of the bill.
“TSET reforms have been very popular among our constituencies for several years now and I believe this bill reflects the will of the people” he said. “We worked with all parties affected by these changes and came up with a good piece of legislation that should pass both chambers of the legislature this spring. I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”
According to the three legislators, the bill is the product of nearly a year’s worth of research, with the lawmakers meeting with multiple agencies and seeking input from the various parties and individuals. SB 1149 will also be accompanied by Senate Joint Resolution 58, which requires a vote of the people to alter the Constitution so these TSET changes can be implemented.