October 24, 2014

Convenience stores want deal from legislature (AUDIO)

The people who fought off a big tobacco tax increase last November are willing to strike a deal with the legislature to allow a tax on cigarettes.  But the group wants to penalize some people who might exercise a constitutional right again..  

The association of convenience stores and petroleum marketers has fought off three tobacco tax increase proposals in the last decade.  All of them have been put on the ballot by initiative petition.

Now the association says it will agree to a 13-cent increase, upping the cigarette tax to 30 cents a pack. Lobbyist Ron Leone has told a Senate Committee he wants a poison pill written into the law, though.  It could discourage petition campaigns that would take the tax even higher. The bill says that anytime any petition to increase the cigarette tax makes it to the ballot, the tax is immediately rolled back from the 30 cents Leone proposes to today’s 17 cents, the nation’s lowest.

The senate committee he was speaking to offered only a slight suggestion that the deal would interfere with the constitutional right of citizens to petition their government for relief. 

Leone is open about what he’s proposing. “My ultimate control is to take legislative control of this issue and hopefully keep the initiative petitions of the future at bay,” he says. 

The committee has not voted on the bill.  Committees usually wait at least a week before deciding whether to send a bill to the full senate for debate.

 AUDIO: Committee meeting 35:00