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Antismoking research funds may restore

Published June 19, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Lawmakers on Wednesday moved to save antismoking research threatened by legislative budget fights.

The $53.5-billion state budget approved last month did not include $3-million for 14 research programs at Florida universities and hospitals.

All of the programs, including one at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, are entering their third and final year and many would lose the benefits of the initial work if they aren't funded.

The money is from interest on a $150-million endowment created with money the state received from the settlement of a lawsuit filed against major tobacco companies.

When officials from the Biomedical Research Council discovered the projects were left out of the budget, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and Senate President Jim King blamed each other.

King said Byrd was trying to punish the Senate because the endowment was created in a bill King sponsored in 1999. Byrd said Senate Appropriations Chairman Ken Pruitt indicated the endowment had not earned any money.

Wednesday, Byrd introduced a measure to restore spending for the projects and name them after King's parents, James and Esther King.

The House approved the measure 110-0.

Byrd said he decided to introduce the bill after concluding the money is available. "I guess it's my job to take care of it," Byrd said.

Although King has pushed for the program for months, he initially told reporters he was opposed to taking it up during this special session. But after learning the problem could not be resolved in time to save the research projects, King agreed to have the Appropriations Committee meet today to consider the bill.

[Last modified June 19, 2003, 02:02:50]

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