AP: Tobacco company spent $800K lobbying Legislature

By | 02.17.12 | 10:17 am

Dosal, a Miami-based tobacco company, spent around $800,000 last year to lobby the Florida Legislature, the Associated Press reports. According to the Sun Sentinel, the group spent the third most money last year on lobbying state lawmakers.

During last year’s session, lawmakers tried and failed to levy more taxes on the company. A bill introduced was nearly dead-on-arrival once Gov. Rick Scott made clear he would veto it.

This session, a second attempt to pass a bill that would remove a tax exemption the company has benefited from for over a decade has gained no traction in the Legislature. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, so far has no House sponsor. It has been referred to the regulated industries, judiciary, budget and rules committees, but has not been heard.

Dosal was not part of the 1997 Florida Tobacco Settlement Agreement,which made the company exempt from certain taxes other tobacco companies pay. Altman says last year’s and this year’s bill would close “a big tax loophole” for Dosal, which would be a boon for health services in the state.

By law, the money collected from these taxes on tobacco companies goes to the Lawton Chiles Endowment fund, which is used “to ensure the financial security of vital health and human services programs in the state.” As the state continues to face budget shortfalls, health services have taken big hits. Health advocates have stood by plans to require Dosal to pay more taxes in order to help keep vital health services running.

Big Tobacco has backed efforts to tax Dosal more, arguing that companies like Dosal have an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Altman has said that Dosal has gotten a boost from the current “loophole,” including an 18 percent market share, because the company is able to sell cheaper cigarettes.

However, Dosal has said publicly that that “imposing a fee on the company would be unfair,” arguing that because Dosal “wasn’t involved in the alleged industry practices, such as manipulating the nicotine content of cigarettes, that triggered the wave of lawsuits against major tobacco makers in the 1990s,” they should remain exempt.

This week, a consumer advocacy group called upon the Legislature to consider Altman’s bill.

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