Yes, No, Maybe? What does it all mean?

Much has been written about the Cigarette Tax vote over the past few days and I wanted to share with you how things may not always be as easy to decipher as you may think.

What do I mean?

Let’s start with the first vote during the House debate on the revised bill we passed last year. As background, the House passed a 30 cents increase with the money going to offset the (now non-existent) grocery tax. The Senate amended the bill to 50 cents with money going to Medicaid. So…..let’s go through the votes of the day (Yes votes listed first/No votes listed last):

MOTION TO RECOMMIT THE BILL (to committee) started things off.

As is customary if you’re against a motion, you move to table that motion. And so here we go….

MOTION TO TABLE THE MOTION TO RECOMMIT
This passed by a vote of 84-31. Which meant the bill would stay on the calendar and debate could start on the floor.

Now……what does a Yes or No vote there really mean?

For some, the Yes vote meant “No, don’t send it back to committee, it will die there”.
For some, the No vote meant “Heck yeh, send it back to die”
For some, the No vote meant “I think it should be vetted out at the committee level than on the floor” (a.k.a spin)

MOTION FOR THE HOUSE TO ADJOURN
This failed 17-98. This meant, debate would start.

For some Yes meant “Let’s get out of here before we have to vote”
For some Yes meant “Let’s regroup and strategize”
For some Yes meant “I’ve got other commitments this afternoon and need to leave”
For some No meant “No, we’re taking the bill up now”
For some No meant “Are you kidding me? We have several bills on the calendar”

FIRST AMENDMENT WAS WITHDRAWN

SECOND AMENDMENT would put $1M a year towards Agriculture and $5M to prevention and cessation
This passed 82-35 (and was the ONLY amendment to pass)

THIRD AMENDMENT would put tax at 30 cents with money for cessation, cancer screening, tax credits for insurance,etc.
MOTION TO TABLE AMENDMENT THREE
Passed 67-51. This meant the amendment died.

A Yes vote here for some meant “30 isn’t enough, keep it at the Senate 50”
A Yes vote here for some meant “I don’t want to raise it period and won’t vote for an increase”
A No vote here for some meant “I’d rather have this version over Senate version”
A No vote here for some meant “This is best shot to do something”

FOURTH AMENDMENT would put tax at 50 cents (same as Senate) with funds same as Amendment Three
MOTION TO TABLE AMENDMENT FOUR
This passed 60-58. This meant the amendment died.

A Yes vote here for some meant “I prefer Senate plan over House 50 cents plan”
A Yes vote here for some meant “I don’t want to raise it period and won’t vote for increase”
A No vote here for some meant “I’d rather spend the money this way than Senate”
A No vote here for some meant “This is the best shot to do something”

FIFTH AMENDMENT 25 cents version of the two amendments above.

Before we got to this vote, another MOTION TO ADJOURN for the day came up. That failed again, this time overwhelmingly 5-109. (For Yes/No see original adjournment vote above).

Next was a CLOTURE MOTION, which would limit debate.
This failed 58-59. Which meant we were in-line for limitless debate.

For some the Yes vote on cloture meant “We’ve debated enough, let’s get going to a vote”
For some the No vote on cloture meant “Let’s drag this out and see if we can put more amendments on the bill and wear folks down.”
For some the No vote on cloture meant “We should never limit debate on any bill”

Finally, the vote on the FIFTH AMENDMENT came (or rather the MOTION TO TABLE THE FIFTH AMENDMENT). This passed 81-38. This meant the amendment died.

For some Yes meant “25 cents is not enough” (and maybe the did 30 or 50 earlier…or maybe they did nothing in order to get the Senate plan passed instead of the House)
For some Yes meant “I don’t want to raise it period and won’t vote for an increase”
For some No meant “I’d rather have this plan than the Senate”
For some No meant “This is the best shot to do something”

Because of the TWO VOTE difference on Amendment Four, a MOTION TO RECONSIDER AMENDMENT FOUR was made. (A motion to reconsider can be done by someone who voted on the prevailing side. Usually this is done if that person wants to change his/her vote).

As you can tell with all but one amendment above above, procedurally, a motion was then made to table again. The MOTION TO TABLE THE MOTION TO RECONSIDER AMENDMENT FOUR, passed 59-56 and so we did not reconsider.

AMENDMENT SIX (increase penalties for underage smoking) was ruled Out of Order

AMENDMENT SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE, and TEN were “passed over” meaning the sponsor reserves the right to go back to them later (usually done to “save your amendment for last” to see what the others would do). We finally came back to Amendment Seven.

AMENDMENT SEVEN would take the money and move it to Income Tax Reduction (a.k.a. “The Governor’s Plan).
MOTION TO TABLE AMENDMENT SEVEN
Passed 68-52 and so the amendment died.

AMENDMENT EIGHT AND NINE were tabled on motion of their sponsor (basically a “take it down” move which is allowed by the sponsor).

AMENDMENT TEN would spend funds to help employers with E-verify and immigration this was ruled not germane to the debate.

Then came the last amendment which would increase the funds allocated to Smoking Cessation from the proposed $5M to $25M. The tabling motion here passed 68-49 and so the amendment died.

In summary: If you want to know what your legislator meant – ask. The votes (if anyone actually checks the journals or if the media picks up on them) may not be tell you what you think (good or bad).

You may think your official was for it, when actually they weren’t.
You may think your official was against it, when actually they weren’t.

Of coruse, based on all the motions, amendments, and tabling motions, a few could have it both ways and say they voted FOR the increase while at the same they could tell others that they voted AGAINST the increase.

The only true way to find out how your official voted and why is to ask him/her.

Remember this going forward…..even if you see a straight “up or down” vote on a bill (which in this case we did not have) you may not know what he/she was thinking. Many times an official might be FOR a cause but AGAINST the details of the bill to ‘fix’ it.