- The Maine Wire - https://www.themainewire.com -

Lawmakers fund cessation efforts but retreat on more sweeping tobacco taxes and regulations

With the 130th Maine Legislature’s second session completed, except for a veto day to be held May 9, several tobacco-related bills are on the path to die. 

LDs 1423 and 1523 remained on the special appropriations table in the Senate when it adjourned on April 25. They were not among the list of roughly 90 bills that received funding on the final day of the legislature’s work.

LD 1550 remains on unfinished business in the House of Representatives. The bill would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including cigars and electronic smoking products, in the state. Tobacco retailers who violate the ban would commit a civil crime, punishable by a fine of $1,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for repeat offenses.

The fiscal note attached to the bill’s original text projects a roughly $15 million reduction in General Fund revenue in fiscal year 2021-2022 and a roughly $23 million reduction in fiscal year 2022-2023 should it become law. It was also projected to lead to a roughly $100,000 reduction in Local Government Fund revenue in fiscal year 2021-2022 and roughly $150,000 in fiscal year 2022-2023.

LD 1523 would have created the Trust for A Healthy Maine to receive settlement funds the state receives as part of the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and distribute that money to various state agencies for the purpose of promoting public health and fighting disease. Currently, funding from the agreement goes to the Fund for a Healthy Maine.

The trust would have been governed by a 15-member board, consisting of appointees with various backgrounds appointed by the governor. Along with administering money received through the trust, members would have been responsible for developing a state health plan and producing an annual report on the result of tobacco prevention and control programs funded through the trust. 

The bill was passed by the House on April 12 and placed on the Senate’s special appropriations table on April 13 pending a final enactment vote.

The legislature did pass LD 1868, which provides funding to the state’s tobacco control and prevention programs. The bill provides $7.5 million to the Fund for a Healthy Maine in fiscal year 2022-2023 in order to meet funding recommendations made by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bill was taken off the Senate’s special appropriations table on April 25 and finally passed by both legislative chambers. As an emergency bill, it will go into effect immediately once signed by Gov. Janet Mills. The bill was passed under the hammer. 

As originally written, LD 1423 would have doubled the state’s cigarette tax, from $2 per package of 20 cigarettes to $4, in order to provide funding for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

However, a committee amendment that was adopted by both legislative chambers struck the original bill and replaced it. New provisions in the bill stipulated that funding for the DHHS’ tobacco program must meet either the revenue collected from the sale of all tobacco products plus all available funds in the Fund for a Healthy Maine or the amount of funding recommended for the state by federal DHHS, whichever is less. 

The amendment also provided ongoing funding for the Fund for a Healthy Maine and included roughly $7.5 million per year in ongoing appropriations for the Fund for a Healthy Maine.

The bill was finally passed by the House on March 29 and placed on the Senate’s special appropriations table pending final passage on March 31. Like LD 1523, it was not removed from the special appropriations table when lawmakers convened on April 25.

When lawmakers return on May 9 to address vetoes from Gov. Mills, they may also consider tabled items and those sitting in unfinished business. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will further act upon any of these tobacco-related measures that are still pending.