By Brad Bowman
Henry County’s state legislators recently celebrated victories in the 2014 General Assembly with bill passages and state budget progress.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback limiting the sale of electronic cigarettes passed the state senate by a 36-2 vote March 6. Senate Bill 109 prohibits the sale of vaporized nicotine and electronic cigarettes to minors and places the products under the umbrella rules and regulations of tobacco products.
“I’m sure this will pass in the House,” Hornback said. “It’s about protecting our youth and the statute has the language of tobacco statutes.”
The bill will cover nicotine products — those derived from tobacco and others which are not. Hornback said in researching the bill there were nicotine sources most people don’t know about.
“Some of the nicotine in these products comes from non-tobacco nicotine sources like tomatoes and potatoes,” Hornback said.
Hornback emphasized the real challenge of the 2014 General Assembly will be the budget.
“We think the House will bring it out of committee by next Tuesday. We’ve been going through the governor’s budget plan,” Hornback said. “It takes a lot of time and we will be spending some late nights up until midnight going over it.”
State Representative Rick Rand said the Senate could expect to see the budget by Wednesday.
“I chair the Appropriations and Revenue Committee so on even-numbered years my time is almost entirely consumed by the budget,” Rand said. “Our (the House) budget will be similar to what the governor’s budget was when he presented it in January.”
Rand said prior commitments to the state retirement system would be in play as well as several developments of interest to Henry County and the surrounding area.
“We want to give state employees a raise. They haven’t had a raise since 2008. We gave the money school districts asked for, not just the SEEK formula money (funds allocated by attendance numbers), but flex-focus funds,” Rand said, “which allocates about $47 million for textbooks and a $50 million bond for technology throughout the districts. Those are some of the things we are most pleased with.”
Rand said one positive development will be a new building addition partially funded for the Jefferson Community College Carrollton location.
“This will affect people in the region with a $12 million bond from the state and will involve about a $4 million contribution from the surrounding counties.”