Tobacco tax won't come up in House Rules today. The speaker, who controls this committee, has the votes there. On the floor? More time needed.
UPDATE: Wills blogs about why he opposes the Republican red herring bill to pay for part of a trauma system, but nothing else, with court costs, though he voted for similar legislation two years ago. He's learned from his mistake.
FROM ROBBIE WILLS:
A member asked me today why I am opposed to HB 1238, Rep. Garner’s Trauma Bill, since that I voted for something similar two years ago. There are many reasons for my opposition , but I’ll offer these four for now.
(1) The funding stream is not reliable - Those unfamiliar with the court system may not realize that just because a fine is levied by a judge doesn’t mean it will be paid by teh offender. The only way to ensure the money flows is to make cities and counties pay the state regardless of when/whether they collect the fines. This would be a massive unfunded mandate on local government.
(2) It is bad public policy - Relying on illegal behavior to fund a critical need like a trauma system is bad public policy. The continuation of a statewide trauma suystem will depend on Arkansans continuing to break the law. I don’t want legislators, health officials and others relying on these important services to hope and pray that people continue to drive drunk or commit violent crimes. Smoking isn’t good for you and there are some places you can’t do it, but it’s still legal.
(3) There is a better alternative - HB 1204! The Tobacco Tax would be paid only by consumers who choose to use tobacco. In that regard it is really a user fee, same concept as a toll road. If you don’t want to pay the fee, don’t use the product. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), people will continue to smoke and dip, revenue will continue to be generated, thus creating a a steady source of revenue. If smokers continue to smoke, our public health expenditures for smoking related illnesses will continue disproportionately compared to expenses for non-smokers.
(4) I’ve learned from our mistake - I always reserve the right to continue to educate myself and learn from past mistakes. Yes, I did vote for a similar bill two years ago. However, after the vote I became convinced it wouldn’t work. I don’t want us to make the same mistake twice and fail to get a trauma system again. Shoot, I’ve seen co-sponsors of a bill vote against the bill on the floor because they realized it would be a bad idea!