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NATIONAL DIGEST

NATIONAL DIGEST

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$2 rise in California cigarette tax may be headed for ballot

SAN DIEGO — A well-financed campaign backed by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, medical groups and organized labor has collected enough signatures for a ballot measure to raise California's cigarette tax by $2 a pack, officials said.

The Save Lives California coalition on Monday submitted the first signatures in its effort to triple California's cigarette tax to $2.87 a pack.

If enough signatures are verified, the measure would appear on a Nov. 8 ballot.

The proposed tax increase would also apply to electronic cigarettes and other products with tobacco or nicotine. The measure calls for the proceeds to be spent on MediCal — the state's version of Medicaid — and anti-smoking campaigns and medical research.

The increase would make California's cigarette tax the ninth-highest in the nation, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group. New York has the nation's highest tax at $4.35 a pack and Virginia's is lowest at 30 cents. Nebraska's tax is 64 cents. Iowa's is $1.36 a pack. — AP

Talks to resume in Verizon dispute with unions

WASHINGTON — Verizon and union officials representing about 39,000 striking landline and cable workers in nine Eastern states and Washington, D.C., agreed over the weekend to restart negotiations today, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, after meeting with both sides, said, "The parties had an open, frank and constructive dialogue about finding a comprehensive way forward to resolve disputed issues and get people back to work."

The two striking unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represent workers for Verizon's wireline business, which provides fixed-line phone services and FiOS Internet service.

Workers walked off the job on April 13. They had been working without a contract since August.

The unions have said they're striking because Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers. The telecom giant has said there are health care issues that need to be addressed for retirees and workers as medical costs have grown. — AP

Gannett raises ofer in Tribune takeover bid

NEW YORK — USA Today owner Gannett has boosted its takeover bid for Tribune Publishing Co. by about 22 percent one week after the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers adopted a "poison pill" plan to thwart the unsolicited offer.

Gannett said Monday that the total value of the revised offer is about $864 million, which includes the assumption of certain Tribune liabilities, such as about $385 million in outstanding debt. Tribune confirmed that it received the revised offer and said that its board would thoroughly review the proposal. — AP

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