The previously defeated renewal of a 4-cent cigarette tax came back to life Monday afternoon when it was tacked onto legislation that would dedicate more tobacco settlement dollars to merit-based TOPS scholarships.
The constitutional amendment is a Gov. Bobby Jindal-backed plan to permanently set aside more dollars each year to the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.
But, using the Jindal-backed Senate Bill 53 as the vehicle, state Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, revived his cigarette tax renewal that had previously been vetoed by Jindal under the argument that a tax renewal is the same as a tax increase.
As state Rep. Bodi White, R-Central, questioned whether the constitution allowed a Senate bill to seek imposition of a tax, state Rep. John Bel Edwards passed by Ritchie to tell him that the tax would start in the House with his amendment.
The amendment was approved on a 58-41 vote. Last week, 58 House members voted in favor of overriding Jindal’s veto, but 70 votes, or two-thirds support, are needed for the veto. The amendment only needed majority support.
Applause broke out when the House voted to add the Ritchie amendment among representatives who had been on the losing of the veto override attempt.
House Speaker Jim Tucker and state Rep. Jane Smith sat side by side near the podium as the House debated amendments. Tucker walked the aisles at other times conferring with lawmakers.
Tucker voted for the cigarette tax addition while Smith was urging rejection of it
The full bill was then easily approved on a 90-12 vote.
SB53, sponsored by Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego, next moves to the Senate for concur-rence of the House amendments. Rejection of the amendments would send the bill to a con-ference committee of House and Senate members.
If the constitutional amendment is approved by the Legislature, it will go to the public for a vote Oct. 22.