Roby Brock has a good run down of the progress on the Governor’s proposed 56 cent cigarette tax increase. According to him, the bill will be filed on the House side by Rep. Gregg Reep and be sent to the Rules Committee, which is made up of members chosen by Speaker Robbie Wills, where it is likely to sail through. Call me crazy but it seems to me that this is more of a bill for the Revenue and Taxation Committee or the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. But according to Speaker Wills blog post from the other day, “taxes on tobacco and bills dealing with gambling go to the Rules Committee as directed by the House rules.” I don’t see any reason for this good ol' boy rule other than guaranteeing a friendly committee for every bill dealing with tobacco or gambling. Maybe one of my legislator friends can educate me. I guess rules are rules but since the assignment has not been made yet, maybe Speaker Wills will still “do the right thing” and send it to a committee that makes a little more sense.
Regardless, the real battle will be on the floor of the house where the pro-tax crowd will have to battle for the 75 votes needed. It will either take every Democrat plus the one Green Party legislator (who I hope realizes the power of his swing vote) to pass or a defection from as many Republicans to equal the number of Democrat votes lost. And even if they can pull this off, they then face a similar battle in the Senate where they need 27 of 35 votes. Not an easy task.
Realizing this, the Republicans who are fighting the tax hike are bringing in the big guns. According to talk around the capital yesterday, former U.S. Congressman from Texas and House Majority Leader Dick Armey will be coming into town in February to lend a hand. Details are still being hammered out but he should be at the state capital on Tuesday morning of February 3 immediately followed by a lunch to raise funds for the Republican Party of Arkansas.