Pennsylvania Taking Action to Fix High-Cost Juvenile System & Improve Public Safety

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, April 12th, 2021, 2:26 PM PERMALINK

Taxpayers in Pennsylvania are currently spending over $190,000 each year to house just one juvenile offender. This is a bad deal for everyone involved, and a sign of a government system that is not working.

The state’s juvenile justice system is not delivering the results Pennsylvanians should expect. Over recent years, a number of scandals involving abuse and pay-to-play have highlighted this fact.

Most, 60%, of the juveniles who are held in state facilities are there for a misdemeanor offense – and just 39% of those are offenses against another person.

For serious crimes, and those that indicate a threat to public safety, it is important the system detains offenders. But problems are created when low-level youth offenders are incarcerated, and removed from their families. Not only does this not reduce recidivism, research shows, it can increase it.

When high costs carried by taxpayers do not reduce crime, it is time to take a look at the system and find ways to improve it. This is where the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force comes in.

The task force, established by leaders from all branches of government, has been diving into the challenges facing the state’s juvenile system, and will soon release recommendations to address the high costs and lackluster results – along with problems highlighted by the scandals.

Even better for Pennsylvania, a number of states have laid out a successful, conservative path for juvenile justice reform that protects public safety first and foremost, while keeping communities together, improving results, and better using taxpayer dollars.

Utah has steered away from costly, ineffective detention for low-level offenses, instead turning more to programming that holds offenders accountable, while keeping them with their family. After enacting juvenile justice reforms in 2017, Utah has seen a nearly two-thirds decline in admissions to locked detention, compared to 2015 data. 

After Texas passed measures that reduced their incarcerated youth population, the state was able to close eight juvenile correctional facilities that became unnecessary, between 2007-2011. In the process, they saved taxpayers $179 million – and juvenile crime declined.

It just makes sense to focus mental health, behavioral, and addiction-focused options on low-level youth offenders who have these problems - juveniles who are not a public safety threat, and whose issues can be addressed with appropriate intervention, giving them a chance at a brighter future.

If they spend too much time in a state facility, their outlook can get worse. That is a loss for public safety, and taxpayers if they can’t become a contributing member of society.

Also on the table for Pennsylvania’s task force are reforms for excessive fines and fees, and expanding expungement for youth.

The Keystone State was the first to implement Clean Slate in the adult system – which automatically seals records for cases that did not result in a conviction, and misdemeanor offenses for people who have not reoffended. This has been a huge success.

Expunging, or sealing, a case record can be a costly and expensive process. That keeps many people from trying to get their case sealed, even when they are eligible for expungement. Given the success at the adult level, expanding and automating expungement for youth offenders who stay on the straight-and-narrow is a great policy for the Juvenile Justice Task Force to pursue. This is a pro-jobs policy, clearing someone’s record when they have earned it through good behavior makes it far easier for them to work and be a productive part of the community.

Fines and fees are another area where government has too often turned the criminal justice system into a cash grab, mixing up the role of law enforcement and tax collector. In Pennsylvania, some counties have an average fee burden of nearly $700.

Let’s be clear, restitution for crimes is important and necessary, as are fines that serve as an appropriate punishment for the offense. It is excessive fines, and fees that can keep driving up that cost, that lead to disproportionate punishment that follows an offender for years. Particularly for youth, who by their very nature of being underaged are not likely to have full-time jobs, it is necessary for the task force to pursue reform here.

Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice Task Force has the great opportunity to recommend these effective, conservative reforms. They would improve Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system by steering more kids toward a better path, where they work and contribute to society.

Republican-led states like Utah, Texas, and Kansas have shown these reforms protect public safety, reducing juvenile crime rates even as the detained population falls. And taxpayers will win as well as costs fall, and more former offenders add value to the economy.

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California Democrats Seek to Introduce Yet Another Tax on California Gun Buyers

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Posted by Elias Korpela on Friday, April 9th, 2021, 5:49 PM PERMALINK

Despite current federal excise taxes on firearms and California’s already onerous gun laws, California lawmakers are eager to add another tax on guns and ammunition sales. 
California Assemblyman Marc Levine (D) introduced legislation that would add an excise tax on gun retailers for firearm and ammunition sales. This bill would add a 25-dollar tax on the sale of every new gun purchased in California as well as a new tax on ammunition sales at a yet undetermined amount. The money raised by the tax would be used to fund violence prevention programs like California’s CalVIP program. 
Assemblyman Levine explained his support for the bill arguing that “Gun violence will not end on its own” and that it is critical to “take responsible action to end the public health crisis that is gun violence in California and in our country.” 
While stopping violence using guns is a worthwhile goal, the legislation proposed by Assemblymember Levine wholly misses its mark. 
First, the legislation would do little to curb violence using guns. Citing multiple studies, RAND Cooperation in 2018 concluded that “moderate tax increases on guns or ammunition would do little to disrupt hunting or recreational gun use”
Similarly, the legislation would do little in discouraging legal and illegal gun purchases. According to a 2018 UC Davis Health survey, despite some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, “roughly 25 percent of those who purchased their most recent firearm in California reported that they did not undergo a background check.” Even with strict gun laws, increasing the price of guns has little to no effect on someone’s decision to obtain a firearm.  
Finally, Levin’s legislation would only add another tax to the litany of other taxes and fees on Californians. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, “The federal government already imposes about $750 million in excise taxes on the import and retail sale of guns and ammunition. Handguns are taxed at 10 percent, and other guns and ammunition are taxed at 11 percent.” Even in California, the state annually collects $6 million in gun fees and requires fees like a $31 Dealer Record of Sale Fee and a $5 Safety and Enforcement Fee. Moreover, the violence prevention programs the bill would fund already received $30 million in state funding. 
Levine’s bill does little to curb violence using guns. It is clear that this new bill is nothing more than a new tax and a cash grab by desperate California Democrats looking to take even more from Californian taxpayers’ wallets and to further infringe on their 2nd Amendment rights. 

Photo Credit: Sacramento Press Media

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New Study Finds Biden Tax Hikes Would Eliminate 1 Million Jobs in First 2 Years

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Posted by Isabelle Morales on Friday, April 9th, 2021, 4:50 PM PERMALINK

Joe Biden’s tax hikes would eliminate one million jobs in the first two years, according to a new study by economists John W. Diamond and George R. Zodrow. The study, which was commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers also found that the tax hikes would eliminate 600,000 jobs per year over the first decade and reduce GDP by $117 billion in the first two years. 

The study assumed several Biden tax hikes would go into effect include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, reinstating the corporate alternative minimum tax, eliminating most expensing of depreciable assets, repealing the 20% deduction for pass-through businesses, doubling the tax rate on capital gains and dividends, taxing unrealized capital gains at death, and increasing the top individual tax rate to 39.6 percent.  

Biden’s tax hikes will reduce new investment and decrease capital in both the short and long term. As the study notes:

Investment in ordinary capital declines initially (two years after enactment) by 1.9 percent, by 1.3 percent ten years after enactment, and by 1.6 percent in the long run; this effect is only modestly affected by imports of ordinary capital into the United States, which increase in the long run by 0.2 percent. 

The increase in the statutory corporate income tax rate results in a reallocation abroad of FSK, which declines initially by 2.7 percent, by 3.5 percent 10 years after enactment, and by 2.9 percent in the long run. 

This reduction in investment and capital will not only have detrimental effects on the U.S. economy, it will also harm workers due to a decrease in household wages. As the study notes: 

The decline in the stocks of ordinary capital and FSK gradually reduce the productivity of labor over time and thus real wages, which fall by 0.6 percent in the long run, while labor compensation falls by 0.6 percent initially, by 0.3 percent ten years after enactment, and by 0.6 percent in the long run… 

These effects translate into a reduction of $638 in wage income per household… 

The study also notes that Biden’s tax hikes will cost jobs each and every year after enactment: 

The declines in hours worked would be equivalent to declines in employment of approximately just over 1.0 million FTE jobs two years and five years after enactment, and a decline of 0.1 million FTE jobs ten years after enactment. 

In terms of the duration of the reduction in employment over the first ten years after enactment, the average annual reduction in employment would be equivalent to a loss of roughly 600,000 jobs, or 5.7 million total “job years” lost over the ten-year interval. 

Other studies, on average, show that labor (or workers) bear an estimated 70 percent of the corporate income tax in the form of wages and employment, as ATR notes here.

At a time when American workers are still trying to regain employment and lost wages, it is hard to imagine a more harmful set of policies to enact. To have a strong economic recovery, it is imperative that we incentivize job creation, investment, and wage growth. Biden’s tax hikes do precisely the opposite. 

Photo Credit: BIS UK

Joe Biden’s “Infrastructure” Plan is Packed Full of Wasteful Spending

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Posted by Isabelle Morales on Friday, April 9th, 2021, 12:10 PM PERMALINK

The Biden administration has outlined the “American Jobs Plan,” a $2 trillion spending plan. While the proposal is purportedly for infrastructure, much of the plan is a liberal wishlist of policies that have little, or nothing to do with roads and bridges.

As noted by Republicans on the House Budget Committee, less than 13 percent of this spending plan is spent on repairing or creating roads, bridges, waterways, locks, dams, ports, airports, and broadband.  

Some of the non-infrastructure provisions in Biden’s plan includes: 

  • 20 percent of the entire cost of the bill is for an expansion of Medicaid—approximately $400 billion.
  • $213 billion for housing and to increase federal control of local housing markets
  • $100 billion of additional funding for schools without requiring them to reopen
  • $50 billion for a new office at the U.S. Department of Commerce
  • $35 billion for climate science, innovation, and R&D 


This plan would spend $10 billion in taxpayer dollars on a uniformed “Civilian Climate Corps” tasked with the vague mission of “advancing environmental justice.” This funding would be enough to hire 200,000 professional, progressive environmental activists. These Green New Deal hall monitors would be entitled to taxpayer-funded housing, clothing, feeding, allowance, and medical expenses. 

Biden also wants to include the PRO Act in his “infrastructure” proposal. This would ban right-to-work laws, which 27 states have in place, allowing employers to force their employees to join a union as a condition of employment. The PRO Act would also force a mass reclassification of independent contractors, threatening the livelihoods of millions of contractors across the nation. When California implemented AB5, which established the same independent contractor reclassification as the PRO Act, countless people lost their jobs, had to flee the state, or saw a significant decline in income. 

ATR has compiled 655 personal testimonials from independent contractors who detail the ways that AB5 has hurt them, which you can view here.  

As it stands, the United States is on track to spend $5.8 trillion in 2021. Now, Biden wants to spend trillions of dollars more, including the second part of his infrastructure plan which is likely to cost an addition $2 trillion. With both parts of this spending package combined at about $4 trillion, this plan would be, in dollars, the largest spending increase in U.S. history.  

The so-called “American Jobs Plan” seems eerily similar to the “American Rescue Plan,” which used coronavirus pandemic relief as a Trojan horse for leftist policy goals like a $350 billion state bailout, burdensome tax paperwork mandates, a state tax cut ban, and more.  

Now, Joe Biden is attempting to implement a liberal wishlist under the guise of infrastructure, a historically popular government initiative.  

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Pennsylvanians Will Get Stuck with Higher Utility Bills Due to Biden Corporate Tax Rate Hike

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Posted by John Kartch on Friday, April 9th, 2021, 10:04 AM PERMALINK

If Casey votes for Biden's corporate income tax rate increase, he will have to explain why he just increased your utility bills

If President Biden and Sen. Bob Casey raise the corporate tax rate, Pennsylvania households and businesses will get stuck with higher utility bills. Democrats plan to impose a corporate income tax rate increase to 28%, even higher than communist China's 25%.

Customers bear the cost of corporate income taxes imposed on utility companies. Corporate income tax cuts drive utility rates down, corporate income tax hikes drive utility rates up.

Electric, gas, and water companies must get their billing rates approved by the respective state utility commissions. When the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, utility companies worked with officials to pass along the tax savings to customers, including at least 17 Pennsylvania utilities:

  • Citizens’ Electric Company of Lewisburg
  • Metropolitan Edison Company
  • Pennsylvania Electric Company
  • Pennsylvania Power Company
  • Pike County Light & Power Company
  • PPL Electric Utilities Corporation
  • Wellsboro Electric Company
  • West Penn Power Company
  • PECO Energy Company (Gas Division)
  • National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation
  • Peoples Gas Company LLC
  • Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC -- Equitable Division
  • UGI Central Penn Gas Inc.
  • UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc.
  • UGI Utilities, Inc.--Gas Division
  • Pennsylvania-American Water Company
  • Pennsylvania-American Water Company—Wastewater

As noted by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission:

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today issued an Order, requiring a “negative surcharge” or monthly credit on customer bills for 17 major electric, natural gas, and water and wastewater utilities, totaling more than $320-million per year. The refunds to consumers are the result of the substantial decrease in federal corporate tax rates and other tax changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, which impacted the tax liability of many utilities.


“As economic regulators, it is the Commission’s responsibility to ensure that utility rates are just and reasonable. Further, it is necessary for utility rates to reflect relevant tax expenses,” noted PUC Chairman Gladys M Brown in a statement at today’s public meeting. “I believe this work (by PUC staff) has resulted in an innovative answer by this Commission to effectively flow-through the benefits of the TCJA back to customers.

Public utilities required to begin returning federal tax savings to consumers include Citizens’ Electric Company of Lewisburg, Metropolitan Edison Company, Pennsylvania Electric Company, Pennsylvania Power Company, Pike County Light & Power Company, PPL Electric Utilities Corporation, Wellsboro Electric Company, West Penn Power Company, PECO Energy Company (Gas Division), National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation, Peoples Gas Company LLC, Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC—Equitable Division, UGI Central Penn Gas Inc., UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc., UGI Utilities, Inc.--Gas Division, Pennsylvania-American Water Company and Pennsylvania-American Water Company—Wastewater.  -- May 17, 2018 Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission Press Release

Conversely, a vote for a corporate income tax rate hike is a vote for higher utility bills right as the USA is trying to recover from the pandemic.

Sen. Casey would be wise to stay away from tax increases.


ATR Signs Coalition Letter Urging Congress to Oppose Interest-Rate Caps

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Posted by James Setterlund on Thursday, April 8th, 2021, 10:07 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform joined a group of free-market groups and signed a coalition letter encouraging Congress to oppose interest rate caps on consumer borrowing. By restricting interest rates on financial products, Congress will limit consumer choices among affordable lending services.

Installing a cap on interest rates will price consumers out of the market, particularly many of the unbanked and underbanked who need access to affordable financial products the most. An interest rate cap on lending products will not reduce borrower demand and instead will force lenders to increase borrower eligibility requirements. Increased eligibility requirements could adversely discriminate against borrowers who lack even a basic credit score.

Many low-income borrowers who may not have access to traditional banking services and or credit history will not get quick credit from any legal lender. This has been demonstrated by economists at the Mercatus Center that shows government interest rate caps exclude borrowers from obtaining affordable lending products and does little to diminish the customers need for these products. Those borrowers will continue to seek credit through alternative forms of credit, which could come from illegal lenders known as "loan sharks.” Loan sharks operate outside regulatory supervision and have been known to use tactics like blackmail, coercion, and violence when borrowers fail to meet their aggressive repayment plans.

Legislation at the federal and state level should be conscious of whose lead they are following. Many of these proposals may resemble the legislation put forth by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) in 2019.

Several states have tried an interest rate cap in the past with low-income households suffering the most. Arkansas, a state with a constitutionally mandated interest rate cap, has extremely low loan volume. Many of its residents drive out of state to acquire installment loans that offer increased lending options with interest rates appropriately tailored to service those borrowers. After Georgia and North Carolina implemented caps on interest rates, insufficient funds notifications and bounced check fees surged, harming lower-income consumers who may find it more challenging to afford these fees.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) signed an interest rate cap into law last month even after lender organizations, including the Illinois Small Loan Association, warned that the interest rate ceiling effectively ends the short-term loan industry. Neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin have no interest rate cap and can expect to see an influx of new borrowers crossing state lines for loans as did the states like Oklahoma, Missouri, and Tennessee surrounding Arkansas.

Consumers are best able to make appropriate financial choices that meet their needs when they have more choices in credit markets. Americans for Tax Reform and the undersigned organizations strongly urge Congress to oppose regulation limiting credit markets and installing a ceiling on interest rates.

Click here to review the letter.

Photo Credit: Blue Coat Photos

Watch: What's Next for Sports Betting in the States?

Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, April 8th, 2021, 4:17 PM PERMALINK

Baseball season is here, NCAA basketball champions have been crowned, and state legislatures are still in session. It's the perfect time to talk sports betting.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, FanDuel's Andrew Winchell, and Jessica Feil with American Gaming Association join a special webinar to talk about how states can win with low taxes and good regulatory policies for sports betting. Watch here.


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Montana Senate Passes Bill to Save Livelihoods – and Lives

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Posted by Karl Abramson on Thursday, April 8th, 2021, 1:55 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today praised the Montana Senate for passing SB 398, a common sense, good governance reform that will save not only livelihoods – but also lives. SB 398 ensures appropriate transparency and accountability over decisions impacting public health while also safeguarding Montana’s state revenue base. 

In response to the bill’s passage, Tim Andrews, Americans for Tax Reform’s Director of Consumer Issues, congratulated Montana legislators on this achievement and noted that: “It is the fundamental responsibility of state governments to protect their citizens. At times, these threats can come from local governments that act without any accountability or scrutiny and impose punitive taxes on the most vulnerable in their communities. SB 398 will put a stop to this.” 

Montana state health officials testified during a hearing on SB 398 that, should the bill not be passed, laws will be enacted in twenty-six Montana localities that would outlaw stores selling e-cigarettes and vapor products. This would force the closure of over twenty establishments and cost more than one hundred jobs in the state. These local laws would also leave countless smokers looking to quit the deadly habit of cigarette use without access to scientifically proven reduced harm alternatives. 

Andrews made sure to note the incredible public health benefits of SB 398, stating that “Not only will this bill stop businesses being closed by ill-informed, unaccountable bureaucrats, it will also save lives. According to the world’s leading cancer academics, E-cigarettes could save over 27,000 lives in Montana if a majority of the state’s cigarette smokers made the switch to vaping. SB 398 will preserve the ability of Montana residents to access these lifesaving products and will have a significant impact on decreasing socioeconomic disparities that exist in health.” 

Andrews also recognized the leadership of Representative Ron Marshall noting that: "Rep. Marshall's tireless advocacy on behalf of consumers, taxpayers, and small businesses has been nothing short of remarkable and this achievement would not have been possible without his passion and dedication. Businesses across the state, as well as smokers desperately trying to quit their deadly habit, owe him and his team a great debt of thanks."

SB 398 will now be transmitted to the House, where Representatives will consider the bill in committee before it can be voted on by the full House. Americans for Tax Reform will continue our advocacy in support of SB 398 and encourages all Montana taxpayers, legislators, and consumers to voice their support for this legislation as well. 

Photo Credit: Diego Delso

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Montanans Will Get Stuck with Higher Utility Bills Due to Biden Corporate Tax Rate Hike

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Posted by John Kartch on Wednesday, April 7th, 2021, 3:03 PM PERMALINK

If Tester votes for a corporate income tax rate increase, he will have to explain why he just increased your utility bills

If President Biden and Sen. Jon Tester raise the corporate tax rate, Montana households and businesses will get stuck with higher utility bills. Democrats plan to impose a corporate income tax rate increase to 28%, even higher than communist China's 25%.

Customers bear the cost of corporate income taxes imposed on utility companies. Corporate income tax cuts drive utility rates down, corporate income tax hikes drive utility rates up.

Electric, gas, and water companies must get their billing rates approved by the respective state utility commissions. When the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, utility companies across the country worked with officials to pass along the tax savings to customers.

As noted in a 2018 Montana Public Service Commission Release

The Montana Public Service Commission voted unanimously to approve an agreement for Montana-Dakota Utilities’ electric business to refund to consumers the benefits they received from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The agreement, or Stipulation, calls for a $1.5 million consumer refund as a result of the TCJA.

NorthWestern Energy passed along their savings to Montana customers as well:

The tax savings stem from the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Congress passed in December and was signed into law by President Donald Trump. Federal corporate tax rates fell from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Regulated utilities like NorthWestern cannot pocket the savings, which must be shared with ratepayers, who also pay the utilities' taxes. NorthWestern has about 345,000 customers in Montana. 

NorthWestern is proposing that its natural gas customers receive direct refunds for the entire $3.154 million in tax breaks associated with the utility’s natural gas business. The company’s electric customers would receive half of the $10.8 million in tax breaks associated with NorthWestern’s electric business. Half the money would be spent removing hazard trees that pose a fire or outage risk.

“With what we proposed, for a natural gas customer, it would be about $1.18 a month. An electricity customer would be 67 cents per month,” said Butch Larcombe, NorthWestern spokesman. – April 3, 2018 Billings Gazette article excerpt

Conversely, a vote for a corporate income tax rate hike is a vote for higher utility bills right as the USA is trying to recover from the pandemic.

Sen. Tester would be wise to stay away from tax increases.

Missouri's Chance To Protect Businesses & Consumers From Rapacious Local Governments

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Posted by Tim Andrews on Wednesday, April 7th, 2021, 1:51 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform submitted written testimony today for a hearing on Missouri’s House Bill 517 in the House Committee on Downsizing State Government.  

HB 517 is a pro-taxpayer reform that will protect Missouri’s businesses and consumers from damaging regulations imposed by local governments on reduced harm tobacco alternatives. ATR urged lawmakers to support the legislation in the interests of safeguarding Missouri’s public health and state economy. 

Tim Andrews, ATR’s Director of Consumer Issues, wrote “It is simply good governance that matters of this magnitude be decided at the state level, due to both the level of increased scrutiny, transparency and accountability it provides, but also the direct impact it has on state tax revenue should a product be banned.” 

Andrews also urged legislators to consider the impact that HB 517 would have on state revenues, noting “State budgets would also be negatively affected through the forgoing of tax revenue from state income taxes caused by a burgeoning black market, caused by the smuggling of illicit products between different jurisdictions and sold without appropriate state taxes being paid.  As such, protecting citizens from these policies is not only the moral thing to do, but also in the direct interest of lawmakers in Jefferson City.” 

Andrews noted the importance of protecting the freedom of Missourians, writing “It is important to note that, contrary to some arguments made by opponents of this bill, “local control” at its core is about safeguarding individual liberties and restricting the growth of government; it is not a free pass for cities to do whatever they want. Localities are just as capable of being conduits for heavy-handed laws that will harm citizens. When that is at stake, state action is not only appropriate to safeguard individual freedoms – it is essential.” 

Andrews concluded by stressing the benefits that HB 517 will have on public heath, stating that “Vapor products would save nearly 125,000 lives if a majority of Missouri smokers made the switch to vaping, extrapolating from a large-scale analysis performed by leading cancer researchers and coordinated by Georgetown University Medical Centre. HB 517 will have a tremendous impact on public health and would decrease socioeconomic disparities significantly as it will prevent localities from prohibiting life-saving treatment.” 

The full testimony can be read here

Photo Credit: Daniel Schwen

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