Thursday, February 5, 2009

Video: Tobacco Tax Passes the House 75 to 24 (UPDATE - Pyle also voted to raise taxes)

It was high drama in the house chamber today. The representatives were tense awaiting the outcome the vote. The first major surprise was the absence of Rep. J.R. Rogers from Walnut Ridge. Rogers was considered to be a yes vote so his absence put the passage is serious doubt.

The debate began with Rep. Greg Reep introducing the bill saying that the health care programs in the bill were necessary for our state. Fellow Democrat Rep. Stephanie Flowers sharply questioned Reep asking him if these programs are so necessary why are they not spelled out in the bill? Reep instead that the bill had to first run the revenue through general revenue and then it could be appropriated properly, but Flowers was not persuaded. (Video coming soon.)

Rep. Frank Glidewell was first to speak against the bill saying that he was “speaking up for the little man.” He also pointed out the strong arm tactics used to try to persuade members to vote for the bill saying that “it looks like we need towels in the chamber from all the water boarding going on in here.” (Video from after the vote.)

House Speaker Robbie Wills then turned the chair over to the Pro Tempore Rep. Curren Everett so that he could speak for the bill. He said, “nothing is more important to me than statesmanship, dignity, and decorum" but that today the house had a choice to make. He went on to say that the bill is “not about numbers or programs but about people.”

Minority Leader Bryan King was the last to speak against the bill. Rep. King was brief but clear stating that the trauma system is a worth program but that this is not the time to raise taxes. King told the chamber that he feels this bill will worsen our state’s economic situation. (Video coming soon.)

With no one left to speak the votes were called for and everyone held their breath looking at the tally board. Applause erupted from the packed gallery when the tally went up 75 yeas and 24 nays. The measure passed.

Of the nine Republicans that I had listed as maybes, five (actually six -see UPDATE below) ended up voting for the tax increase, Rep. Rick Green, Rep. Roy Ragland (video interviewing coming soon), Rep. Tim Summers, Rep. Robert Dale, and Rep. Bill Sample (and Rep. Beveraly Pyle.) I was able to speak with Ragland who told me that he felt he needed to vote for the bill because his district was very large and spread out geographically and he believes the trauma system is needed to get his constituents the emergency care that they need. He also said he plans on that being the last tax increase he ever votes for.

The other interesting aspect was the Democrats who voted against the bill. Going into today, it was believed that at least three would vote no but it ended up being only Rep. Pam Adcock and Rep. Stephanie Flowers both of whom felt this tax was regressive and would place an unfair tax burden on the poor. The deciding swing vote came down to Rep. Gary Smith. I caught up with Smith outside the chamber. He said he finally made up his mind to vote for the bill last night. He told me that he is an economics professor at SAU and after looking at the pros and cons he believed that the health care provided from the bill would benefit the economy more than the tax would hurt it.

Now the bill heads to the Senate where we get to do this all over again!


UPDATE - I noticed this morning that I mistakenly said only five Republicans voted to raise your taxes when it was actually six. Republican Rep. Beverly Pyle from Cedarville also voted for the bill and somehow I missed it. I did not even know she was considering it. Anyway, I apologize Rep. Pyle for not pointing out that you voted to raise taxes.


Brett said...

I guess Gary Smith forgot about his "no tax" pledge in his campaign.

Anonymous said...

That will be the last tax he votes for. He is term limited and will have stff primary opposition if he ever runs for anything again.

Anonymous said...

the judas is roy ragland. this is the last tax he votes for until they offer more pieces of silver.

Anonymous said...

I was speaking about Roy Ragland in my 5:04 post