Call to Order and Roll Call
Themeeting of the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee was held on Wednesday, November 2, 2011, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Paul Hornback, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Paul Hornback, Co-Chair; Representative Wilson Stone, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, Vernie McGaha, Dennis Parrett, and Joey Pendleton; Representatives Royce W. Adams, James R. Comer Jr., Tom McKee, Fred Nesler, and Tommy Turner.
Guests: Dr. B. Mark Evers, MD, Markey Cancer Center; Dr. Donald Miller, MD, PhD, Brown Cancer Center; Roger Thomas, Bill McCloskey, Joel Neaveill, Christi Marksbury, Jennifer Hudnall, Mike Tobin, and Angela Blank, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy.
The October 5, 2011, minutes were approved, without objection, by voice vote, upon motion made by Senator McGaha and second by Senator Parrett.
Kentucky Lung Cancer Research Program Report
The meeting began with a progress report on the Kentucky Lung Cancer Research Program (KLCRP), which receives some tobacco settlement funds appropriations. Reporting to the committee were Dr. Donald Miller, Director of Brown Cancer Center, located at the University of Louisville, and Dr. B. Mark Evers, Director of the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center.
Dr. Miller praised the General Assembly for establishing the Kentucky Lung Cancer Research Program over a decade ago. In 2000, Dr. Miller said he was surprised that U of L did not have a scientist working on cancer research. He said that establishment of the program and the tobacco settlement funds appropriations have made a difference.
Dr. Miller pointed out that cancer is a major health problem in Kentucky; the lung cancer mortality in the state is 40 percent higher than the U.S. as a whole.
The Brown Cancer Center director highlighted some of the research work being undertaken at the institution. He said that the tobacco plant is being used to develop cancer treatments, in particular, the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, which is recognized as the first 100 percent effective cancer vaccine. He told Representative McKee that the drug may be tested on Kentuckians within a year. A goal in developing the vaccine is to make it inexpensive, thus within the reach in developing countries. The Gardasil work is being undertaken on conjunction with the Owensboro Cancer Research Program.
Other cancer-related research at Brown, Dr. Miller testified, revolves around inhibiting sugar metabolism in cancer sufferers, working with adult stem cells, and treating cancer with fruit extracts such as blackberries.
Using a graphic to illustrate his point, Dr. Miller described the “translational research” that involves many segments, including the state Bucks for Brains program, federal grants, and grants from the state Office of New Economy.
Following his prepared remarks, Dr. Miller responded to Co-chair Stone regarding other environmental or lifestyle issues, apart from smoking, that may contribute to Kentuckians’ higher than average lung cancer rates. He indicated that while there are other factors, the high smoking rate in Kentucky is still a leading factor in lung cancer.
Also, Co-chair Hornback praised the work being done under the KLCRP and pointed to the effects of the program on everyday lives of citizens.
The committee then heard from Dr. Miller’s U.K. counterpart, Dr. Evers, whose presentation covered topics that included: a discussion of the collaborative projects resulting from lung cancer research funding, the Kentucky Clinical Trials Network, and the effort to gain National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation for the Markey Cancer Center. He also touched on the “Cycle 10 Awards,” in collaboration with the two institutions of higher learning.
Dr. Evers reported on the Marty Driesler Lung Cancer Research Project, established to study the prevalence of lung cancer in Kentucky. Researchers have found that 83 percent of counties in the 5th Congressional District have higher lung cancer rates than other counties. Smoking rates in the 5th District are only slightly higher than the state rate of 25 percent, thus there may be environmental carcinogen factors evident in the region. Dr. Evers described the scope of a biospecimen collection effort in that region of Appalachia. The on-going research is being funded in part with a $1.4 million Department of Defense grant.
The Clinical Trials Network, which involves many hospitals and other entities, has a mission of providing innovative clinical trials, support and education for research centers, and quality assurance. In addition to discussing the Clinical Trials Network, Dr. Evers described the preparations being made for possible NCI designation, which would help draw more patients, assist in recruitment, and enhance grant and funding opportunities, among other pluses.
Following his formal presentation, Dr. Evers responded to Co-chair Hornback that some cancers have hereditary “founder genes,” particularly colorectal cancer. But he pointed out that, even with genetic factors, there may be something about the region that points to environmental factors.
Dr. Miller responded to Senator Gibson that he did not think there is a specific return of federal cigarette tax funds to programs like the KLCRP. Dr. Evers said that there are about 65 cancer centers in the U.S.
Dr. Evers responded to Representative Adams that some of their research has looked at the effects of second-hand smoke. Both Drs. Evers and Miller responded to Representative Stone that outside peer review is done on completed cancer research studies. Responding to Representative Nesler, Dr. Miller described the tobacco plants being used in the cancer research. He pointed out the plants are not suitable for smoking tobacco.
Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy
The committee received the monthly report from Mr. Roger Thomas, Executive Director, Mr. Joel Neaveill, Chief of Staff, and Mr. Bill McCloskey, Director of Financial Services, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP), regarding project funding decisions made by the Agricultural Development Board (ADB) in its October meeting.
Mr. Neaveill summarized the funding allocations made under the County Agricultural Improvement, Deceased Farm Animal Disposal Assistance, and Shared-use programs from the previous month. He also recapped amendments approved for previously funded projects. Regarding the Deceased Farm Animal Disposal Assistance Program, Mr. Neaveill responded to Representative McKee that the board in its November meeting would be discussing a continuation of the program for another year.
State projects that received funding approvals included: Fleming County Board of Education, $78,500 in county funds for a regional agriculture education facility; Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD), $600,000 grant to continue providing business support services and technical assistance to rural agribusinesses; Greenup County Farm Bureau, $10,000 in county funds to expand an existing agricultural mobile classroom; and Green River Area Beef Improvement Group, $20,000 in Daviess County funds to operate a youth cost-share program.
Regarding the Fleming County project, Mr. Thomas responded to Senator Gibson that he did not know why some adjacent counties did not contribute funds for the regional project, other than perhaps not having funds available. But those funds could be sought in the future, according to the speakers. Mr. Neaveill also explained to the committee why the application process for the project had been delayed. He noted that Lowe’s Corporation made a significant contribution of almost $69,000. In addition, Mr. Thomas responded to Senator Gibson that the Fleming County Board of Education would be responsible for the cost of maintenance, cleaning, and the like for the facility.
The KCARD project prompted some discussion. KCARD is a statewide organization that works with various types of agribusinesses across the state to provide specialized assistance for running a successful business. The speakers told the committee that one requirement will be that KCARD set aside funds to create an agribusiness grant facilitation program that will offer assistance to different state agencies, entities, and entrepreneurs in identifying and applying for available grant moneys. Mr. Neaveill responded to Representative Nesler that state agencies such as the GOAP and the Department of Agriculture could help publicize the grant services available under the new KCARD program. Mr. Thomas noted that an ADB project review committee had sought creation of the grant facilitation program.
Mr. Thomas assured Representative Stone that KCARD would be periodically reporting back to the GOAP and ADB on how it had used the tobacco settlement funds it received. Also, Mr. Neaveill described to Senator McGaha how KCARD apportions its funds for staff salaries, benefits, and other expenses. He said the organization sometimes needs to seek outside expertise, such as tax assistance, in its consulting work.
Regarding an applicant in Harrison County who was denied state funding, but, in turn successfully received county funding, the speakers said the equipment he wanted to buy--a spray inoculator for hay--may be added to the list of eligible items that can be funded under CAIP programs in the future.
On another project denied funding, Jessamine County FFA Alumni Association, which sought funds to educate tobacco farmers and their families, Mr. Thomas responded to Representative Stone that the board allow county councils to award funds to leadership programs.
Documents distributed during the committee meeting are available with meeting materials in the LRC Library.
The meeting adjourned at approximately 11:30 a.m.