State Senate President Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, said it could be months before consensus is formed on his proposal, which he calls a starting point, to tax and regulate vaping and e-cigarette products.
Hendren, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, said he’s talked to Gov. Asa Hutchinson about a special session, but doesn’t expect one to be called until a strong majority of House and Senate members agree on legislation.
“If you’re going to get the support, you’re going to know within a few months. This may take a little bit longer because there’s a lot of new evidence coming out, and we do want to make sure that we gather all the data, that we make wise decisions about how we implement this,” he said.
“I’m not a big fan of special sessions, but there are times to have them, and when every school official is saying, ‘This is an epidemic that is exploding in our schools,’ every day we wait, we’re getting more and more kids addicted to this product. Legislation isn’t going to change it overnight, but it’s going to begin to make the changes and begin to curb this growing epidemic that we have in our schools. So, I’m hoping, because of that urgency that we have to stop a future generation from becoming addicted to nicotine through this new delivery method, we’ll get the support and we can take care of it sooner rather than later.”
Hendren has proposed the School Safety Act, which would levy a 67% privilege tax on e-cigarettes like the one levied on many other tobacco products. Cigarettes in Arkansas are taxed at a rate of $1.15 per pack. The bill would add e-cigarettes to the Arkansas Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006, which prohibits smoking indoors in public places. It also would ban e-cigarette advertising on outdoor billboards located within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or playground, and make other restrictions.
Last week, the House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees voted to adopt an interim study on the issue.
Hendren said that he expects his initial proposal to change under additional testimony and as a result of members’ preferences. According to Talk Business & Politics sources, the proposal lags in support at this juncture.
Hendren also addressed his potential prospects for running for Arkansas Governor in 2022.
“I’m interested in dealing with the problems that are on my plate today, which are, right now, as you can see, this is one that I have a lot of concern about. I’m never going to close the door to political decisions, but I’m also not going to make those years in advance,” Hendren said. “I am considering it, but I’m not going to make a decision that far in advance. I’ve got too much work to do today.”
You can watch his full interview below.