Friday, May 29, 2009

Cigarette Tax Increase Passes, Other Tobacco-Related Budget Updates

Wisconsin will have the 5th-highest cigarette tax in the nation, thanks to a 75-cent tax increase passed early this morning by the Joint Finance Committee. Cigarette taxes in Wisconsin will now total $2.52 per pack. Like the budget itself, the motion that raised taxes on cigarettes passed 12-4 along party lines. The cigarette tax increase, assuming the budget moves through the next budget steps without changes, will take effect September 1.

On a day of gloomy news for tobacco control, the tax increase was one bright spot. The increase should encourage existing smokers to kick their addiction, discourage young people from starting, and, of course, raise much-needed revenue for the state's troubled balance sheet. (For more detail, see item 22 in the general fund omnibus taxes motion).

The committee also passed a "floor," or minimum tax, on moist snuff.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

JFC Update: TPCP funding cut official

The Joint Finance Committee just voted on "Motion 700," which contained the nearly 40% cut to the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program we mentioned earlier today. It passed 12-4 on partisan lines.

What's next >>

  • more changes to the budget by JFC
  • JFC's budget moves to full Assembly for debate and vote (great opportunity for you to tell your state representative to reverse the cut - explain how the Quitline, your local coalition, or youth prevention activities have made a difference for you)
  • budget moves to full Senate for debate and vote (important to also let your senator know why tobacco prevention is important to you or the people you care about)
  • budgets are reconciled between the Assembly and Senate
  • budget heads to governor's desk
  • governor may exercise line item veto power and sign or reject the legislature's budget
On another note, it looks like the proposed tobacco tax increase will be up for debate later tonight.

Devastating cut to Tobacco Prevention and Control as part of today's omnibus motion

This afternoon, the Joint Finance Committee will be debating an omnibus motion (translation: proposal that contains many different issues) that contains a devastating cut to the state's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.  (Scroll to pages 17 and 39 of the omnibus motion to read the TPCP cut info.)

Here are the details:
  • TPCP is currently funded at $30.5 million for the biennium (less than a quarter of the funding level recommended by the CDC)
  • In February, the governor proposed a $1.8 million cut for the next biennium
  • The JFC restored the cut during an April vote (back to $30.5 million)
  • The JFC is now debating rolling back the funding restoration PLUS cutting an additional $10 million - nearly 40% of the current funding - for the next biennium
At a time when demand for the TPCP's services will likely increase (federal cigarette tax increase, likely state cigarette tax increase, smoke-free law implementation pending), this devastating cut must be rejected to offer adequate assistance to tobacco users in Wisconsin who will be looking to quit and to make sure we're not letting the next generation of Wisconsin kids fall through the cracks and get hooked by Big Tobacco.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

JFC to debate tobacco tax increase today

The Joint Finance Committee is set to meet at 4 p.m. today and one of the topics they'll discuss is the proposed cigarette and tobacco products tax increase. If the cigarette tax stays in tact (75-cent increase), WI would have the 5th highest cigarette tax in the nation.

Smoke-free provision removed from budget

Last night the Joint Finance Committee officially voted to remove the smoke-free bill from the budget proposal. (Expected, as the State Legislature passed a smoke-free law as separate legislation and Gov. Doyle signed into law last week.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More budget news

Via WisPolitics...

Gov. Jim Doyle has scheduled a 4 p.m. press conference to talk about how the state will close the additional $1.6 billion budget deficit.

Hopefully we'll be able to catch the coverage on Wisconsin Eye!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Smoke-free Wisconsin Act becomes law

Yesterday the Smoke-Free Wisconsin Act was officially signed into law by Gov. Doyle (hyperlink not yet active). At the press conference the governor stressed that this bill had broad bipartisan support and that the public has been asking for smoke-free air for a long time.

The bill won't take effect until next July, but in the meantime there are a few communities that will be going smoke-free this summer: Monona (June 1), Shorewood (July), Verona (August), and Dane County (August).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Governor's Signing!

Gov. Doyle is holding three press conferences to sign the smoke-free air legislation. Please join us in Milwaukee, Green Bay or Madison for this historic day.

Join Us on Monday May 18th!!!

Milwaukee: 10:30 to 11:15 am at Cempazuchi Restaurant: 1205 E Brady Street Milwaukee, WI 53202

Green Bay: 12:15-1:00 Titletown Brewery 200 Dousman St Green Bay, WI 54303

Madison: 2:15-3:00 Outside steps of the Capitol towards MLK Blvd (Rain location Governor’s Conference Room)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Smoke-free bill passes both houses!

Both houses of the Legislature passed smoke-free workplaces bills last night - and the Smoke-Free Wisconsin Act will be headed to the governor's desk on Monday.



Click here to send a message to Gov. Doyle thanking him for his leadership on smoke-free air and telling him you look forward to seeing his signature on the Smoke-Free Wisconsin Act.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Significant Vote Tomorrow!

The last two weeks have been a flurry of activity on smoke-free legislation in Wisconsin. This week's floor session is the next big hurdle for this critical piece of public health legislation.

Tomorrow, May 13th, is the day that both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature will be discussing and most likely voting on the smoke-free air bill.

Assembly Bill 253 and Senate Bill 181 will not only make it to the floor to be debated and voted on, but is predicted to pass by one legislator. And another. We will soon know when Wisconsin will be finally going smoke-free.

You can watch the floor proceedings on Wisconsin Eye

Friday, May 8, 2009

Smoke-free bill, amended, passes both health cmtes.

The Assembly Health Committee and Senate Health Committee both passed amended versions of the smoke-free bill today. The bills are expected to move to the floor of both houses of the Legislature for debate and a final vote next Wednesday, May 13.

WisPolitics posted an update here.

You can view both committee meetings on Wisconsin Eye:

Special shout-out to Senator Carpenter, Representatives Bernard Schaber, Stone, and Shilling for their thoughtful insights during today's committee proceedings.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lawmakers to introduce "compromise" amendment

Key lawmakers from both houses of the Legislature announced yesterday afternoon that they reached a compromise on changes to some provisions of the smoke-free workplaces bill in order to send the bill to the floor of both houses of the Legislature for a final vote. This vote is long overdue.

To view the full text of this substitute amendment, click here.

A summary of the changes includes:

  • Date of implementation: July 5, 2010
  • Fine structure: Individuals smoking in workplaces would be fined $100-$250. A business owner’s first violation does not carry a fine, but each subsequent offense has a $100 fine.
  • Outdoor smoking: The bill says smokers have to maintain a “reasonable distance” from any smoke-free building. The bill also preempts local governments from passing ordinances making outdoor patios smoke-free. Governments can still regulate and pass smoke-free ordinances on outdoor city property such as parks and fair grounds. Individual businesses can also choose to have smoke-free patios.
  • Tobacco retailers that receive 75% or more of their income from tobacco sales are exempt.
  • Cigar bars that receive 15% or more of their income from cigar sales can have cigar smoke in their establishments, but not cigarette smoke.
  • Hotel rooms are not exempt under the new amendment.

The legislative process from here:
  • Friday May 8: The Assembly and Senate meet in executive session, without public debate, and will have a vote on AB 253 and SB 181 with the proposed amendment outlined above.
  • If passed, it will move to the organization committees in both chambers for scheduling.
  • Wednesday May 13: Target date for the bill to be up for debate in both houses. They will vote on the proposed amendment, any other amendments proposed, and finally the bill.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Senate Hearing on Smoke-Free Air Bill Tomorrow

A Senate committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 181: the Senate's version of the state-wide smoking legislation (see Liz's post from last week for Assembly Bill 253.

The Senate's hearing will take place before the Committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue. Here are the necessary details:

  • Tuesday, May 5, 2009
  • 10:00 AM
  • Room 411 South, State Capitol
SB 181 is identical to AB 253 (click here to view the bill).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

3500 Kids

Every day the U.S. Senate delays passage of the bill to grant the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products, 3500 kids - enough to fill seven schools - try their first cigarette. Check out the ad campaign ACS CAN is running to get the Senate's attention: