This morning the Senate Governance and Finance Committee heard SB768 (de Leon), which would impose an additional tax on tobacco products in order to fund tobacco cessation programs and the health care safety net. This is the first time the tobacco tax, which is currently priced at 33rd in the country, will have been raised in 15 years, and would generate over $1.2 billion dollars just in the first year. The author argued that this will continue to generate revenue in addition to bringing in cost savings from a reduction in tobacco related diseases. SB768 passsed Governance and Finance on a party line vote.
SB768 was heard in Senate Health Committee in the afternoon. Senator Monning made the point that the public health arguments for this bill are indisputable, and urged his fellow committee members to vote accordingly. Senator de Leon made the point that currently, taxpayers pay $3.1 billion dollars to subsidize the harm done by the tobacco industry. The bill passed Senate Health on a party line vote as well.
The Senate Health Committee also heard SB509 (DeSaulnier) that puts into place the necessary authority for Covered California, the Exchange, to perform employee background checks. This bill passed unanimously (Senator Wolk was absent) and moves forward as an urgency measure to ensure that the Exchange can continue its sprint to enrollment day.