As mentioned Friday, the Democrat Party of Arkansas sent out a press release to let the media know that they planned a bipartisan rally against “Big Tobacco” for this Monday morning at the state capital. They must have not gotten much of a head count before the release went out because according to the Ark Times blog, there was not a single current Republican officeholder at the rally. They were able to drag out former state Rep. Mary Beth Green (wife of current co-sponsor Rep. Rick Green) and the executive director of the state Republican Party in the 90’s turned lobbyist for the "Big Medical" industry Richard Bearden (pictured left). This is not quite the overwhelming support we were promised. It makes me wonder why House Speaker Robbie Wills is feeling so confident about getting the 75 votes needed for passage when the bill is expected to go before the house this Thursday. Maybe he knows something we do not. We will be watching!
UPDATE – The sole Republican co-sponsor Rep. Rick Green earns the praise of Speaker Wills today who compares him to late state legislator Ray Smith. Rep. Smith is remembered for having the courage to cast a sole dissenting vote in 1957 against the Democrats who were fighting integration. Sorry, but I don’t consider caving in to a tax increase during a recession while the state is running a surplus to be in the same league as standing up for civil rights in the Deep South in the 1950’s.
(Editor's note - I also apologize if it seems like I am picking on Speaker Wills but his surprisingly candid blog offers a wonderful insight on how the “Big Government” backers are thinking. You may not be able to tell it from my posts but I actually like Speaker Wills and really enjoy his blog; I just strongly disagree with him on this issue.)
UPDATE II – According to David Sanders on KARN this afternoon, there are eight Republicans that House Speaker Robbie Wills feels he may be able to persuade to vote for the cigarette tax increase. These representatives are Rick Green (co-sponsor of the bill), Tim Summers, Bill Sample, Mary Slinkard, Les "Skip" Carnine, Roy Ragland, Robert Dale, and Jon Woods. Sanders reported that he spoke with Jon Woods and he will not support the tax increase.
In order to pass the cigarette tax increase on Thursday in the house, supporters will need every Democrat and Green Party vote plus three Republican votes.