Thursday could be a big day for tobacco legislation at the Capitol.
Legislators are expected to vote on a package of six bills to strengthen tobacco regulations. The measures regulate e-cigarettes like tobacco, add more state-recognized smoke-free workplaces, raise the smoking age to 21, ban smoking on all school campuses, create annual licensing fees and allow local jurisdictions to establish their own tax.
The anticipated vote on the tobacco bills could conclude a special session Gov. Jerry Brown called last year. Brown opened the health special session to focus on establishing a new tax for managed care organizations, with lawmakers also weighing in on an assisted death bill. Now that both measures have passed, legislators are feeling pressure to end the special session, which must be officially closed for 90 days before any laws take effect.
Proponents of the bills say more stringent regulations are long overdue in California, where a Democratic majority has struggled to pass anti-tobacco regulations in the past. Advocates face fierce opposition from the tobacco industry, known as a powerful and influential interest group at the Capitol.
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Philip Morris, which counts Marlboro and Virginia Slims among its cigarette brands, contributed $200,000 to the California Republican Party and another $325,000 to a political action committee run by the California Chamber of Commerce last year. R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Camel, Winston and others, spent nearly a half of a million dollars to lobby tobacco issues in California in 2015.
Later this year the industry is expected to face off against Save Lives California, an anti-tobacco coalition behind a proposed ballot measure to add a $2 tax on tobacco sales.
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WEED EXPO: Business owners, entrepreneurs, investors and others with a stake in the marijuana industry will meet up at the California Cannabis Business Expo today in San Francisco, a three-day event to network and learn more about opportunities in the fast-growing field. Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey of Palmdale will serve as the keynote speaker on Thursday. Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, Fiona Ma of the state Board of Equalization and mairjuana lobbyist Amy Jenkins are set to give talks Friday. Exhibitors include Oaksterdam University, a chef who makes meals like THC-infused chicken stuffed with quinoa, and the California Cannabis Industry Association. The event begins today at 1 p.m. at the Hilton Union Square.
AMERICAN RIVER: Advocates of a bill to create a 12-member board to oversee conservation issues surrounding the American River Parkway will gather at a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Clunie Community Center, 601 Alhambra Boulevard. AB 1716, introduced by Assemblymen Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, would establish the Lower American River Conservancy, dedicated to raising money and overseeing the environmental protection of the 23-mile stretch of urban forest.
VETERAN AFFAIRS: The Little Hoover Commission is set to review state homes and services for California veterans. The commission is in the midst of a study to learn more about the quality of care in eight state veteran homes and how the agency can better meet the needs of new and aging veterans. The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. in room 437 of the Capitol.