Effort to raise smoking age 21 dies in Assembly committee
SACRAMENTO â€“ A last-minute legislative maneuver to save a proposal that would have made California the first in the nation to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 died in an Assembly committee Monday.
Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, pulled his bill, SB 1680, from the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, much to the dismay of Assemblyman Rod Pacheco, R-Riverside, who had amended the senator's bill last week to include raising the smoking age. Polanco said he pulled the bill because Pacheco had never asked him if he could make the amendments.
Last week, a Senate committee killed the original smoking age bill by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, but Pacheco attached the proposal to another bill by Polanco which was later passed in the Assembly.
That bill was amended to increase the legal age to buy tobacco products and fine anyone under 21 who is caught using tobacco, as well as fine those who sell tobacco to minors.
Polanco's bill originally had nothing to do with smoking and meant to reduce the punishment of misdemeanor crimes that do not cause actual harm to two days in the county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $100. That proposal still lives, because Polanco attached it to another bill.
During a brief hearing in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee Monday, Polanco said it was wrong for Pacheco to make amendments to his bill without coming to him first.
"You contact the author of the bill if you have amendments on the floor," said Polanco. Because the bill was still under his name, he was able to hold the bill in the committee.
But Pacheco, who said Polanco had plenty of time to discuss the amendments to the bill with him, said there is still time to have it be heard by the end of the Legislative session on Saturday.
"We have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to add the amendments again to another bill," Pacheco said. "There have been some senators come forward who want to help out. We can still do it. It'll just be a little bit harder."
The bill's apparent demise suited those concerned about its financial impact, as it is estimated to cost the state between $26 million and $66 million a year in lost tobacco taxes. Some Democrats said it was really an attempt by Republicans to gut the proposed increase in cigarette taxes to help close a $23.6 billion budget deficit.
Others, like Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge, objected to the bill's attempt to make it harder for those old enough to serve in the military to buy cigarettes.
But Pacheco said raising the smoking age would make it more difficult for teenagers to obtain cigarettes, as they usually receive them from their 18-year-old friends.