Six weeks after California legislators passed tobacco bills that spurred a threat of political retaliation, the bills will at last land on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.
The legislative package, which included measures to raise the age for buying tobacco to 21, treat electronic cigarettes like tobacco products, and allow counties to impose their own tobacco taxes, won final passage on March 10. Before a key Assembly floor vote, a tobacco industry lobbyist threatened to retaliate by running a referendum campaign that would imperil unrelated ballot initiative campaigns by driving up the price of signatures.
But the industry would not be able to launch a referendum until Gov. Jerry Brown acts on the bills. Legislative leaders have admitted to holding the bills back to forestall that possibility.
They now plan to transmit the bills on Friday – 43 days after they passed – after which Brown would have 12 days to act.
“The time was right,” Anthony Reyes, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, wrote in an email.
Neither of the ballot initiatives the tobacco lobbyist vowed to derail – one to impose a $2-a-pack cigarette tax and one to extend higher taxes on affluent Californians – has yet qualified for the November 2016 ballot.