From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Using tobacco cessation money for drug cessation.

In Budget, Courts on 16 March 2009 at 3:16 pm

Lawmakers emerged from the Senate Health Committee today without a deal to fund drug courts through state tobacco funds. Though the deal was expected to go through, the governor’s office asked for more time to review the terms.

The funding proposal, sponsored by Sen. Bill Pritchard, would divert 15 percent of tobacco settlement money currently used to help people stop smoking. The money would go into a new fund that would pay for treatment programs directed by drug courts.  Sen. Pritchard estimated that the total transfer would be $2.2 million.

Sen. Pritchard previously met with Gov. Beebe and got his support for the general idea. The percentage of smoking cessation funds to be used was left up in the air, however. At today’s meeting, Gov. Beebe’s chief of staff Morril Harriman asked that the governor’s office have until tomorrow to review whether 15 percent is a feasible figure.

Drug courts run diversionary programs that allow some drug offenders to receive treatment rather than jail time. Last year, about $1.5 million was cut from the courts’ treatment programs during the budget process. Sen. Pritchard’s bill would resupply that money.

The bill does not include any funding for drug-court personnel or expansion. Sen. Pritchard said an earlier plan to expand drug courts was scotched when it became clear that there was not enough room in the budget.

The bill lists 24 co-sponsors in the Senate and 72 in the House, more than enough for passage if the governor approves the deal.

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