Push made for higher taxes on cigs, tobacco
By Freddy Monares
The sponsor of a bill that would increase the tax on cigarettes and tobacco says the generated revenue will help curtail the use of tobacco among Montana youth and provide a raise for personal-care providers funded by Medicaid.
Senate Bill 354 would also include e-cigarette-related vaporizing substances in the tax for the first time, and allocate a majority of that money to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicaid.
“What we know is that when we raise the price of tobacco and tobacco products it has a prevent nature,” said bill sponsor Sen. Mary Caferro, D-Helena. “It specifically helps with kids.”
Ron Marshall, the owner of a vape shop in Belgrade, spoke in opposition to the bill.
“And I’m taxed at 74 percent?” Marshall said. “I’m trying to help people better their lifestyle and improve their health, and I’m treated like a demon and taxed at 74 percent.”
This was the Senate Taxation Committee’s first hearing of testimony on the bill.
Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.
Bill would ban styrofoam packaging
By Cole Grant
A bill entering the Montana House would eventually get rid of styrofoam food packaging, be it in to-go boxes or egg cartons.
Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, said the aim is to protect the health of people and wildlife in Montana.
“Bears get into garbage cans and eat a lot of the food that’s here, and deer, and everything is just one big cycle,” he said. “And we as humans ingest deer, elk, fish, all of those types of things, and it all adds up.”
The bill would work in phases: By the year 2020, restaurants would no longer be able to serve food or drinks in styrofoam. By 2022, packagers would not be able use styrofoam for packaging things like baked goods, eggs or or meat.
Businesses could apply for an exemption to the ban if they could not find an acceptable alternative, and if the ban would cause undue hardship.
House Bill 657 will be heard in the House Business and Labor Committee Tuesday.
Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.