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Lawton Chiles endowment fund terminated

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 6:57 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Former Governor Lawton Chiles fought the tobacco industry and won, getting a multi-billion dollar settlement in the mid 1990s that still continues to bring money into the state coffers to this day.

But a new state law terminates the fund tobacco companies send hundreds of millions of dollars to every year.

When then Governor Lawton Chiles signed a bill allowing the state to sue tobacco companies over the money it was spending on poor sick patients, he was told he was wasting his time.

“It’s time for those responsible to pay back,” said Governor Chiles in May of 1994.

But he was successful, winning billions.

All 49 other states soon followed his lead.

Fast forward 27 years and lawmakers this year terminated the fund.

The tobacco settlement money will continue flowing into anti-smoking programs, but there will no longer be a fund named for the former Governor.

Lawmakers justified the move arguing by putting all the state’s extra cash into one fund, the state’s bond rating would improve.

“Putting those funds into our budget stabilization,” said State Senator Kelli Stargel, presenting the bill on the floor on the final day of the 2021 Florida Legislative Session.

But the move brought an outcry from Democrats who felt their icon was being sullied.

“This tarnishes the legacy that has been there for our children,” said State Senator Gary Farmer.

“You know, it’s just not right. It’s not right,” said State Senator Loranne Ausley.

A dozen senators voted no.

Key Republicans have said they are going to find a way to continue honoring the former Governor.

For the time being, the ;ate-Governor’s family has said don’t bother.

“I’m really glad he’s not around to see it, I’ll tell you the truth,” said Governor Chiles’ son, Lawton Chiles II. “He’s honored in the hearts of Florida’s people. What he did and the way he served, the way the he cared about average people and the way he fought for them, that’s the honor.”

Since the session ended just over a month ago, we’ve been told by Senator Stargel that there’s been no discussion on how the forward-thinking Governor will be honored in the future.

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