House rejects tobacco prevention budget

A narrow House majority voted down the budget for the North Dakota Center For Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy on Thursday.
“We’ll get that back and get that through tomorrow (Friday),” said Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo.
The House voted against Senate Bill 2024 Thursday morning by a 46-47 vote. A motion to reconsider the bill during the chamber’s afternoon floor session also failed.
SB2024 has a total budget of $15.8 million and calls for three new full-time employees.
Carlson said House members should have given it further review.
“Tomorrow it’ll come back,” Carlson said. “I think the biggest sticking point was the three new FTEs.”
Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, admitted being caught off-guard by the vote Thursday.
“There’s just some people that have had a hard time accepting the vote of the people on Measure 3,” Nelson said.
The Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy was created through Measure 3, which got 54 percent of the vote in the 2008 general election. The agency is constitutionally mandated and is required to be funded.
Measure 3 created an advisory board that shaped policy for a statewide tobacco prevention program. The program is funded through the settlement of a 1998 multistate lawsuit against the country’s largest tobacco companies.
“There’s people that, every time it comes up, no matter what it is, they’ll vote no without even listening,” Nelson said.
He put the normal number of votes against bills relating to the agency at 25-30. “Never in God’s world would I’d think there’d be a majority,” he said.
Rep. Blair Thoreson, R-Fargo, said he thought lawmakers were trying to send a message. Thoreson had voted against SB2024 on Thursday morning but voted in favor of reconsideration.
“Part of my problem is there is a lot of money being spent on things such as advertising,” he said.
Thoreson has sponsored two smoking-related bills during the session. House Bill 1253, which passed, dealt with getting proper no-smoking signs
to comply with the state’s public smoking ban.
House Concurrent Resolution 3033, which failed, called for an interim study on alternatives to prevent smoking.
Jeanne Prom, executive director of the Center For Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, said she was perplexed by the message the House was sending.
“It was in direct conflict with the voice of the people,” Prom said.
If there’s a philosophical issue with the concept of a state tobacco prevention agency, the state shouldn’t have been involved in the original tobacco lawsuit, she said.
“Because we’ve accepted the money, we’ve accepted that responsibility,” Prom said. “It’s time to maintain the funding of this program and move on.”