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Capitol Notes: E-cigarette bill clears House panel, would be regulated as tobacco products

E-cigarette bill clears House panel: Electronic cigarettes would be regulated as tobacco products in Kentucky under legislation that passed the House Licensing and Occupations Committee today.

House Bill 309, sponsored by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, would include the relatively new product among cigarettes, cigars, and other types of tobacco products that are state regulated. It would also make e-cigarettes off limits to anyone under age 18.

E-cigarettes have a battery, electric circuit, or other component that allows them to produce vaporized or aerosol nicotine. The nicotine is derived from tobacco grown in India and China, said National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids regional director Amy Barkley, who testified on the bill with Jenkins before the committee.

Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, questioned whether e-cigarettes would be taxed as tobacco products if redefined under HB 309. Jenkins said that would be up to the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, which is now working on a state budget proposal for the next two years.

Concerns about how broadly the legislation could be interpreted were expressed by Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, who asked Jenkins, “… why don’t we just have a bill that says, e-cigarettes: You can’t buy them if you’re 18.”

“I guess because the industry is constantly changing, and if we just say e-cigarettes next year there’ll be a another product very similar but that’s not exactly an e-cigarette,” Jenkins said.

HB 309 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

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“Books for Brains” preschool program passes House panel: The House Education Committee today passed a bill that would establish a statewide “Books for Brains” program to encourage reading among Kentucky’s preschoolers.

The program, which would be created with passage of House Bill 341, sponsored by Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, would provide age-appropriate books to children age 5 and under statewide through an arrangement with a private nonprofit that would select and mail the books. The program would be based on the popular Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, which partners locally to provide books to preschool age children in the U.S. and other countries.

Imagination Library has delivered nearly 40 million books to children in the United States, Canada, and the UK since it began operations in 1996, according to the organization’s web site.

Books for Brains would be administered by the state Department for Libraries and Archives, which would also oversee a trust fund that would be established by the bill. Tilley said no moneys have been appropriated for the program, said Tilley.

In response to a question from Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, Tilley said the bill could be amended on the House floor to clarify that language in HB 341 regarding appropriation of funds would serve only as what Tilley called “a placeholder” until money is actually appropriated.

According to Tilley, 49 Kentucky counties are already engaged in some way with the Imagination Library program.

Trigg County optometrist Dr. Scott Sutherland, who is involved with the Imagination Library program in Trigg County and testified alongside Tilley, said around 90 percent of Trigg County preschoolers participate in that county’s Imagination Library program. Over 7,000 books were distributed to preschool age children through the Trigg County program over the past year, Sutherland said. The cost per book, he said, was $2.06.

HB 341 was reported back to the House for further action.

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From Legislative Research Commission

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