Sine Die 2015
Apologies but this is going to be a very lengthy post. The 2015 Legislative session officially ended at 10pm on Thursday night for the vapor industry. It was a VERY rocky road as the bill we anticipated was introduced at the last possible minute due to a pre-fight regarding the implementation of an 86.5% tax on all products sold. We were able to apply enough pressure to remove the tax which was a HUGE win.
The final 48 hours of the session were very tense with the creation of amendments and further amendments to the amendments. I spent most of the final day of the session at the capitol writing hand written notes to the senators to support our amendment, meeting face to face with several of them and lots of time reviewing changes to the amendment to ensure the language was as good as possible. Generally speaking, we normally either fully support or fully oppose legislation. This was a very unique year in that if we did not have an amendment that both sides could agree with, we would have lost the battle and the original bad bill would have been taken into law and we would have been screwed over.
Ultimately we had to apply the 80/20 rule which, while not ideal, worked out mostly to our benefit. From my vantage point, we made HUGE progress this year through the relationships with the lobbyists. Senators and Representatives were swayed to our viewpoints that we could never have gained support from otherwise. They were impressed with our organization, what we have done and what we are doing. It really was humbling to shake hands with Senators and have them thank US for taking the steps we have/are taking to control youth access and manufacturing quality. We also received numerous positive comments from the Senators on working closely together with all sides to come up with a final version everyone could live with. Again, it’s not perfect but it’s the best possible solution we could have achieved.
I would like to thank my leadership team of the UTSFA. They helped me keep my sanity and provided heaps of assistance to keep things moving in the right direction. I would also like to thank (in no specific order) The Americans for Tax Reform, National Vapers Club, CASAA, The Vaping Militia, The American Vaping Association, SFATA, Libertas Utah, Njoy and others I’m likely forgetting for helping get the word out on the taxation and bad regulation and organizing Calls to Actions.
I want to also thank all our vendors, consumers and social media admins for getting involved to call, email and blast social media with the alerts. I’ve seen more “excitement” over the legislation this year than ever before and is apparent how tight our vaping family has become in the last year and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Lastly, I would like to send a HUGE shout out to our lobbyists and the senators who worked closely with us; Andy Stephenson and Charlie Evans our lobbyists and Senators Bramble & Urquhart. These guys worked VERY long days including almost a “House of Cards” all-nighter in the final days of the session. I worked very closely with them throughout the process and learned heaps. These guys really pushed their sleeves up and got into the trenches where you’re up to your neck in political dirt, and came out smelling like roses. You guys are really awesome and we are truly blessed to have you part of the Utah Smoke Free Association family!
We will do a formal debrief on the 22nd with the Board of Directors, Officers and Lobbyists. Following the board meeting, we will have a statewide meeting with all retailers and consumers that wish to attend so mark the 22nd down on your calendars now. I’ll announce the exact timing and location as soon as possible. With that, here’s the breakdown of how things shook out…
What HB415 does:
- Regulations outlined in the bill go into effect July 1 2015
- Requires a state issued retail license to sell vapor products to the public. $30/3 years, $20 renewal
- Introduces penalties for selling to minors and for anyone over 19 that provides vapor products to minors (including parents). Penalties include fines and misdemeanors.
- Allows advertising so long as the retailer/manufacturer is licensed to sell vapor products
- Exempts pre-filled, sealed cartomizers from all regulations (Blu, Vuse, Njoy, etc)
- Preempts current county regulations (after July 1 2016) and requires that by January 1 2016, the state and local health departments in coordination with the public and industry must come up with an agreeable set of regulations to include: labeling; nicotine content; packaging; and product quality. Regulations created do not go into effect until July 1 2016.
- Keeps the manufacturing level regulations and authority at the county level
- Allows licensed retailers and manufacturers to set up at age-restricted trade shows and events (19+) – after July 2016
- Restricts anyone under 19 from being in any vapor or smoke shop without their parent or guardian. This is already law for vapor shops.
What it does not do:
- Does not change current online sales restrictions. We attempted to introduce language that would allow unfettered sales so long as 3rd party verifications software was used but this was not accepted and was removed.
- Does not introduce a requirement to use electronic age verification to scan IDs at the point of sale. We wrote an amendment for this but the retail merchants rejected it and lobbied against it before it was even presented thus it was cancelled. Retailers and politicians across the state showed their true colors by rejecting a best practice in age control technology and stated quite loudly through their actions that these bills really are NOT “about the children”. This is still an organization requirement for our retailers however.
- Does not ban private person to person sales
- Does not follow best practices in defining vapor products despite providing the language and asking for it to be changed. This would have required them to rewrite entire statutes of state code of which there was not time to draft into regulations for the session. We will be working on this however in the interim session with the assistance of our lobbying team.
Status of county regulations:
- All county regulations remain until July 1 2016. After that, their regulations will only apply to the manufacturing process of e-liquid.
- After July 2016, counties will no longer be able to have their own rules regarding nicotine content; packaging (caps); and product quality.
We MUST retain the lobbyist for the remainder of the year and into next if we want a seat at the table to design the regulations with highly experienced negotiators. The fight and industry is simply too large for us to manage this internally as we do not have the training or skills to do what they do. Also, the taxation issue WILL be back next year and we need to spend the year to fight this and work to educate all in power why a taxation is bad. We can only do this with the lobbyists and this takes money and growing our membership. This will require that all members of the old Utah Vapers organization join up with UTSFA so we can have the necessary funding to beat all this back to an acceptable level. Otherwise, the state regulations being drafted this year coupled with the proposed tax next year will screw us over and you might as well pack up and leave the state now.