NO. 130. AN ACT RELATING TO CREATING A QUALIFIED ESCROW FUND FOR TOBACCO MANUFACTURERS NOT PARTICIPATING IN THE TOBACCO MASTER SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT.
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 33 V.S.A. chapter 19, subchapter 1A is added to read:
Subchapter 1A. Nonparticipating Tobacco Manufacturers
§ 1912. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(a) Cigarette smoking presents serious public health concerns to the state of Vermont and to the citizens of Vermont. The surgeon general has determined that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases, and that there are hundreds of thousands of tobacco-related deaths in the United States each year. These diseases most often do not appear until many years after a person begins smoking.
(b) Cigarette smoking also presents serious financial concerns for the state. Under certain health care programs, the state may have a legal obligation to provide medical assistance to eligible persons for health conditions associated with cigarette smoking, and those persons may have a legal entitlement to receive such medical assistance. Under these programs, the state pays millions of dollars each year to provide medical assistance to these persons for health conditions associated with cigarette smoking.
(c) It is the policy of the state that financial burdens imposed on the state by cigarette smoking be borne by tobacco product manufacturers rather than by the state to the extent that such manufacturers either determine to enter into a settlement with the state or are found culpable by the courts.
(d) On November 23, 1998, leading United States tobacco product manufacturers entered into a settlement agreement, entitled the "Master Settlement Agreement," with the state. In return for a release of past, present and certain future claims against these manufacturers as described therein, the Master Settlement Agreement obligates these manufacturers to:
(1) pay substantial sums to the state, tied in part to their volume of sales;
(2) fund a national foundation devoted to the interests of public health; and
(3) make substantial changes in their advertising and marketing practices and corporate culture, with the intention of reducing underage smoking.
(e) It would be contrary to the policy of the state if tobacco product manufacturers who determine not to enter into such a settlement could use a resulting cost advantage to derive large, short-term profits in the years before liability may arise, without ensuring that the state will have an eventual source of recovery from them if they are proven to have acted culpably. Consequently, it is in the interest of the state to require that such manufacturers establish a reserve fund to guarantee a source of compensation, and to prevent such manufacturers from deriving large, short-term profits and then becoming judgment-proof before liability may arise.
§ 1913. DEFINITIONS
As used in this subchapter:
(1) Adjusted for inflation means increased in accordance with the formula for inflation adjustment set forth in Exhibit C to the Master Settlement Agreement.
(2) Affiliate means a person who directly or indirectly owns or controls, is owned or controlled by, or is under common ownership or control with, another person. Solely for purposes of this definition, the terms owns, is owned and ownership mean ownership of an equity interest, or the equivalent thereof, of ten percent or more, and the term person means an individual, partnership, committee, association, corporation or any other organization or group of persons.
(3) Allocable share means allocable share as that term is defined in the Master Settlement Agreement.
(4)(A) Cigarette means any product that contains nicotine, is intended to be burned or heated under ordinary conditions of use, and consists of or contains:
(i) any roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or in any substance not containing tobacco;
(ii) tobacco, in any form, that is functional in the product, which, because of its appearance, the type of tobacco used in the filler, or its packaging and labeling, is likely to be offered to, or purchased by, consumers as a cigarette; or
(iii) any roll of tobacco wrapped in any substance containing tobacco which, because of its appearance, the type of tobacco used in the filler, or its packaging and labeling, is likely to be offered to, or purchased by, consumers as a cigarette described in subdivision (i) of this subdivision (A).
(B) The term cigarette includes roll-your-own (i.e., any tobacco which, because of its appearance, type, packaging, or labeling is suitable for use and likely to be offered to, or purchased by, consumers as tobacco for making cigarettes). For purposes of this definition, 0.09 ounces of roll-your-own tobacco shall constitute one individual cigarette.
(5) Master Settlement Agreement means the settlement agreement (and related documents) entered into on November 23, 1998 by the state and leading United States tobacco product manufacturers.
(6) Qualified escrow fund means an escrow arrangement with a federally or state chartered financial institution having no affiliation with any tobacco product manufacturer and having assets of at least $1,000,000,000.00, where such arrangement requires that such financial institution hold the escrowed funds principal for the benefit of releasing parties and prohibits the tobacco product manufacturer placing the funds into escrow, from using, accessing or directing the use of the funds principal except as consistent with subsection 1914(b) of this title.
(7) Released claims means released claims as that term is defined in the Master Settlement Agreement.
(8) Releasing parties means releasing parties as that term is defined in the Master Settlement Agreement.
(9)(A) Tobacco product manufacturer means an entity that, after the date of enactment of this act, directly (and not exclusively through any affiliate):
(i) manufactures cigarettes anywhere that such manufacturer intends to be sold in the United States, including cigarettes intended to be sold in the United States through an importer (except where such importer is an original participating manufacturer (as that term is defined in the Master Settlement Agreement) that will be responsible for the payments under the Master Settlement Agreement with respect to such cigarettes as a result of the provisions of Subsection II(mm) of the Master Settlement Agreement, and that pays the taxes specified in Subsection II(z) of the Master Settlement Agreement, and provided that the manufacturer of such cigarettes does not market or advertise such cigarettes in the United States);
(ii) is the first purchaser anywhere for resale in the United States of cigarettes manufactured anywhere that the manufacturer does not intend to be sold in the United States; or
(iii) becomes a successor of an entity described in subdivision (i) or (ii) of this subdivision (A).
(B) The term "tobacco product manufacturer" shall not include an affiliate of a tobacco product manufacturer, unless such affiliate itself falls within any of subdivisions (A)(i)-(iii) of this subdivision (9).
(10) "Units sold" means the number of individual cigarettes sold in the state by the applicable tobacco product manufacturer (whether directly or through a distributor, retailer or similar intermediary or intermediaries) during the year in question, as measured by excise taxes collected by the state on packs (or "roll-your-own" tobacco containers) bearing the excise tax stamp of the state. The department of taxes shall promulgate regulations as are necessary to ascertain the amount of the state excise tax paid on the cigarettes of such tobacco product manufacturer for each year.
§ 1914. REQUIREMENTS
(a) Any tobacco product manufacturer selling cigarettes to consumers within the state (whether directly or through a distributor, retailer or similar intermediary or intermediaries) after the date of enactment of this act shall do one of the following:
(1) become a participating manufacturer (as that term is defined in Section II(jj) of the Master Settlement Agreement) and generally perform its financial obligations under the Master Settlement Agreement; or
(2) place into a qualified escrow fund by April 15 of the year following the year in question, the following amounts (as such amounts are adjusted for inflation):
(A) 2000: $0.0104712 per unit sold after the effective date of this act;
(B) for each year, 2001 and 2002: $0.0136125 per unit sold;
(C) for each year, 2003 through 2006: $0.0167539 per unit sold;
(D) for each of 2007 and each year thereafter: $0.0188482 per unit sold.
(b) A tobacco product manufacturer that places funds in escrow under subdivision (a)(2) of this section shall receive the interest or other appreciation on such funds as earned. Such funds themselves shall be released from escrow only under the following circumstances:
(1) to pay a judgment or settlement on any released claim brought against such tobacco product manufacturer by the state or any releasing party located or residing in the state. Funds shall be released from escrow under this subdivision in the order in which they were placed into escrow and only to the extent and at the time necessary to make payments required under such judgment or settlement;
(2) to the extent that a tobacco product manufacturer establishes that the amount it was required to place into escrow in a particular year was greater than the state's allocable share of the total payments that such manufacturer would have been required to make in that year under the Master Settlement Agreement (as determined pursuant to Section IX(i)(2) of the Master Settlement Agreement, and before any of the adjustments or offsets described in Section IX(i)(3) of that agreement other than the inflation adjustment), had it been a participating manufacturer, the excess shall be released from escrow and revert back to such tobacco product manufacturer; or
(3) to the extent not released from escrow under subdivision (1) or (2) of this subsection, funds shall be released from escrow and revert back to such tobacco product manufacturer 25 years after the date on which they were placed into escrow.
(c) Each tobacco product manufacturer that elects to place funds into escrow under subdivision (a)(2) of this section shall annually certify to the attorney general of this state that it is in compliance with this section. The attorney general may bring a civil action on behalf of the state against any tobacco product manufacturer that fails to place into escrow the funds required under this section. Any tobacco product manufacturer that fails in any year to place into escrow the funds required under this section shall:
(1) within 15 days, place such funds into escrow as shall bring the manufacturer into compliance with this section. The court, upon a finding of a violation of subdivision (a)(2) or subsection (b) of this section, may impose a civil penalty, payable to the general fund of the state, in an amount not to exceed five percent of the amount improperly withheld from escrow per day of the violation, and in a total amount not to exceed 100 percent of the original amount improperly withheld from escrow;
(2) in the case of a knowing violation, within 15 days, place such funds into escrow as shall bring it into compliance with this section. The court, upon a finding of a knowing violation of subdivision (a)(2) or subsection (b) of this section, may impose a civil penalty to be paid to the general fund of the state in an amount not to exceed 15 percent of the amount improperly withheld from escrow per day of the violation, and in a total amount not to exceed 300 percent of the original amount improperly withheld from escrow;
(3) in the case of a second knowing violation, be prohibited from selling cigarettes to consumers within the state whether directly or through a distributor, retailer or similar intermediary for a period not to exceed two years; and
(4) pay the reasonable attorneys fees and costs of the attorney general in bringing an action under this section.
(d) Each failure to make an annual deposit required under this section shall constitute a separate violation.
Sec. 2. EFFECTIVE DATE
This act shall take effect upon passage.
Approved: May 12, 2000