Highlights from the Legislature on Wednesday
” The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would eliminate the state sales and use tax exemption for cigarettes (House Bill 1342). Lawmakers said they don’t need voter approval because they are eliminating a sales tax exemption. They said the bill would raise the price of a pack of cigarettes by 13 cents a pack.
” The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would eliminate a requirement that meals provided at reduced charge to restaurants be considered part of the employee’s salary for calculating a sales and use tax exemption (Senate Bill 121).
” The House approved Senate amendments to a measure (House Bill 1026) that would make it easier for people to drive low-power vehicles and scooters on public rights of way. The bill now goes to the governor.
” The House tentatively backed a bill (Senate Bill 180) giving firefighters the right to unionize without having to get local approval. It must pass a third reading in the House before it goes back to the Senate for consideration of amendments.
” The House killed a bill (House Bill 1361) that would have allowed Gov. Bill Ritter to spend money from the general fund reserve in the event state revenues continue to plummet. House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann said the governor can still use money from the reserve after the Legislature adjourns, but the decision makes it more likely lawmakers will be called back into special session this summer to deal with the state’s budget crisis.
” The Senate gave initial backing to a measure (Senate Bill 296) that would allow officers to pull over drivers who are suspected of not wearing seat belts. Currently seat belts are mandatory but authorities can only ticket people who have been pulled over for other traffic offenses and are then found not to be wearing one. The bill faces another vote before it can go to the House.
” The Senate voted 25-9 to pass a measure (House Bill 1317) aimed at blocking the expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. The measure now heads to the governor. It would bar the state from selling or leasing state land board property to the Army. Backers say an estimated 20 percent of the land the Army wants to use for expansion of the site is owned by the land board.
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