Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California tobacco tax push reignites

A Wisconsin man smokes a cigarette on August 20, 2010.
A Wisconsin man smokes a cigarette on August 20, 2010.

Raising California’s tax on cigarettes is one of those policy ideas that smolders for years, meeting setbacks without ever fully burning out.

Health advocates are back at it again today, gathering on the north steps of the Capitol to announce a renewed push for a $2-a-pack tax on smokes. Included will be representatives of the California Medical Association and the American Heart Association. No lawmakers yet, though advocates say they’ll be talking with sympathetic legislators and have not discarded the idea of going to the ballot box.

The last time they did that, in 2012, voters dealt the cigarette tax a narrow defeat. One change framing the legislative prospects is the ascension of Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who in 2013 inserted cigarette tax language into a an ultimately unsuccessful bill. Also worth considering are the considerable volumes of campaign cash the tobacco industry has bestowed upon California lawmakers, reversing a longstanding aversion to accepting money from a business that has not always had the best reputation.

VIDEO: University of California officials are in a precarious position, Dan Walters says.

IN TUITION: Amid angry student protests and pushback from Gov. Jerry Brown, a University of California regents panel voted yesterday to advance a tuition increase plan. Today the proposal goes before the full board, though its approval is basically a foregone conclusion. Next the action shifts to Sacramento and the possibility of lawmakers and Brown staving off tuition bumps by allocating UC more money.

WELLS BEING: Groundwater has become a big issue in California, with the drought draining supplies to the point that lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown mustered the will to pass state-level regulation. The bill overcame opposition from lawmakers and agriculture industry representatives who argued the bill violated property owners’ rights to water beneath their land. Today a Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water hearing will examine groundwater rights disputes, drawing on appeals court judge and water expert Ronald B. Robie and representatives of the State Water Contractors, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Farm Bureau Federation. Starting at 1:30 p.m. in room 112 of the State Capitol.

BEHAVE! Many environmental policies are designed to change behavior – California’s new statewide ban on plastic bags, for instance, is intended to push people towards reusable carriers. Today David Rapson, an assistant economics professor at UC Davis, will be delving into research around prodding consumers to be more energy efficient and less wasteful. From noon to 1:30 p.m. at 1130 K Street.

CELEBRATIONS: Today is the 66th birthday of suspended Sen. Leland Yee.