House kills nicotine product bill
The House on Thursday snuffed a bill backed by tobacco companies that would have lowered taxes on tobacco products billed as less harmful than cigarettes. The House voted 66-29 to reject a conference committee report on House Bill 2097. The author, House Speaker Pro Tem Mike Jackson, R-Enid, tried to withdraw the bill. After a lengthy debate over parliamentary procedure, he withdrew his request to allow Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, to request the measure be returned to a conference committee with instructions to make the measure prohibit sales of so-called nicotine delivery products to anyone younger than 18. HB 2097 would have created and capped an excise tax on products such as snus and electronic cigarettes; the products would have been exempted from sales tax, so the tax would have dropped from 60 percent of the factory list price to 10 cents an ounce. Passage would have made the products more attractive to those not now using tobacco products, Inman said. Jackson said it was unfair for the products to be taxed higher than cigarettes because they are considered less harmful. Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, said it would have set a dangerous precedent by giving special taxation and regulatory treatment to untested tobacco products. Cox said the bill is confusing, but its real purpose was to help market snus. “That product is going to take over the tobacco market for smokeless tobacco,” he said. Jackson said the purpose was to set up a tax structure to lower the tax on nicotine delivery products to encourage people to use a less harmful product. Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, said, “If you believe what is being said on this, you believe in the tooth fairy.”
Black caucus commends Obama
Leaders of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus praised President Barack Obama and Oklahoma officials Thursday for working together in a bipartisan fashion to aid those affected by this week's tornadoes. Rep. Anastasia Pittman, chairman of the caucus, said she was thankful for the president's prompt response to GOP Gov. Mary Fallin's request for federal aid and declaration of a state of emergency. “President Barack Obama immediately sent Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to meet with Oklahoma officials and changed his plans to prepare for a visit to Oklahoma,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. Rep. Kevin Matthews, caucus vice chairman, said he is grateful the president wasted no time. Hundreds of Oklahomans were injured and others lost their lives in the tornado, said Matthews, D-Tulsa.
Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau