Yesterday, the Delaware House Revenue & Finance Committee tabled H.B. 138, a bill that would have increased the taxes on a variety of tobacco products, including cigars, from 15 percent to 30 percent of the wholesale price. On a 6-2 vote, the bill—introduced by Rep. Michael Barbieri (D-Newark)—was tabled, a victory for Delaware cigar smokers.
“It effectively kills it for this session, it cannot be brought back up,” said Gary Griffith, head of House of Emilio and premium cigar manager for retailer Delaware Cigars. “The bill was so poorly written and contained numerous factual errors that the committee saw fit to table it, again.”
Griffith told halfwheel it was the third time Rep. Barbieri has proposed legislation trying to increase taxes to the same result, with the most recent attempt coming two years ago.
“It was the classic dog and pony show,” said Griffith describing how products generally used for marijuana were a focal point of the arguments in support of the bill.
“One of the members of the committee pointed out it seemed silly to go after things that are repurposed for smoking things other than tobacco when Delaware just decriminalized marijuana.”
But that wasn’t the only problem.
“Like in New Mexico and Maine — where bills with similar redefinitions failed this year — the sponsor of HB 138, Rep. Michael Barbieri, indicated that it was never his intention to tax e-cigarettes (although that would have been the effect of the bill),” said Gregory Conley, legislative director for The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA), in a statement to halfwheel. “Rep. Bariberi was amenable to amending the bill to specifically exclude e-cigarettes. In the end, this didn’t happen, as it was clear that he didn’t have the votes to pass the bill.”
The bill was introduce to the committee on May 14 forcing Griffith, Conley and others to mobilize quickly, which Griffith indicated they did to early success.
“It was pretty clear from the beginning that the pro business members of the committee were against any kind of tax increases in what is promoted as a pro-business, pro-small business, state.”