Oklahoma Supreme Court rules cigarette fee unconstitutional

In a 31-page opinion, the Supreme Court said it didn’t matter if you called it a tax or a fee – the sole objective of the bill was to raise revenue for state government, violating the state constitution.

Petitioners, which included both tobacco and wholesale distribution companies, argued that the fee was a revenue-raising measure. The court agreed that the fee violates a state constitutional prohibition against passing revenue-raising measures in the final five days of a legislative session and without a supermajority of lawmakers.

Senate Bill 845, passed May 26, was pitched as a way to encourage smokers to lower, if not eliminate, their consumption of traditional cigarettes by making cigarettes more expensive. The bill also did not gain 75 percent of the vote, rendering it unconstitutional.

Analysts said the Supreme Court ruling could temper efforts in other states to pass similar non-traditional tobacco excise tax legislation. The state has been dealing in recent years with declining recurring tax revenue. Most of the revenue created by the passage in May of the “cessation” fee – $1.50 per pack of cigarettes – was earmarked for health and human services agencies.

“None of this is to say that the Legislature can not choose this particular sort of regulatory tool – a “sin tax” – to further its goal of reducing smoking”, the opinion reads.

“By May 26th, with the end of the legislative session looming, the Legislature had not yet fulfilled its constitutionally-mandated duty to enact a balanced budget”, the court’s opinion states, adding that a House-passed budget depended on revenue from SB845.

“We can not continue to let the most vulnerable Oklahomans suffer because of a continued lack of leadership among the Republicans at the Capitol and their unwillingness to do the hard work and take the hard votes necessary to properly and fully fund our health care agencies”, Sparks said in a statement. Governor Mary Fallin said in her statement that she is disappointed to hear the Supreme Court struck down the fee, but she respects the justices’ authority. “Republicans are not particularly supportive of revenue-raising measures and may be unwilling to consider them in a special session”, Ashley said.download Baby Driver 2017 movie

Lawmakers reacted quickly to the court’s decision.