King plans to wage battle over tobacco funds

DENVER — Sen. Steve King is preparing a floor battle in the Colorado Senate this week over how some tobacco tax money is being spent.

The Grand Junction Republican is still upset with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and who it gives money to in fighting tobacco use.

Last year, the Legislative Audit Committee, on which King is a member, chastised the department for using some of those grants to fund lobbying efforts to persuade local governments to approve ordinances that go beyond the state’s Clean Air Act, which barred smoking in most public areas.

The department rejected a recommendation in that audit to end that practice, saying it’s a crucial part of its tobacco-education programs. King said it’s now trying to make an end-run around that audit in SB185, which senators started to debate on Monday but abruptly stopped.

“They’re using tax money to change law,” King said. “The idea that CDPHE would try and maneuver their way around the audit committee, their way around the (Joint Budget Committee), is offensive because it’s in violation of the Constitution of the state of Colorado.”

Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Black Hawk, said King has it wrong.

“I was trying to explain that this doesn’t have anything to do with that,” Nicholson said. “It has to do with two other sections of law.”

The senator said the programs are only designed to help local groups educate their local officials about the problems with secondhand smoke in areas not covered under the state’s no-smoking ban.

King, however, said the state should not be using taxpayer funds to lobby local governments about what laws they should approve.

The bill could come up for debate again as early as Wednesday.


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