Oklahoma's High Court received the first of potentially many challenges to the several revenue bills being pitched as "merely" fees for a defined state service. The new tobacco assessments were designed in the last few hours of the 2017 regular session, after a major failure in bipartisan negotiations.
Somehow the same $1.50 per pack that was pitched and rejected just a week earlier, got repackaged at the last minute as a simple fee, not intended to result in any revenue increase.
And they did it with a straight face.
Now the state's highest court has ordered the Attorney General to respond within 30 days.
Oklahoma AG, Mike Hunter, said Thursday his office was reviewing the lawsuit.
Gov. Mary Fallin, who is named as a defendant along with leaders of the state House and Senate and the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said she hopes the state's highest court "will deal with it expeditiously."
The state constitution requires that revenue-raising bills originate in the House, be approved by three-quarters of the members of the House and Senate, and not be enacted during the last five days of a legislative session.
The smoking cessation measure:
"This court should reject the dangerous fiction that a tax is not a 'bill to raise revenue' if the Legislature labels the tax a 'fee' and slaps on a policy-oriented title and stated purpose," the lawsuit says.
The cigarette fee proposal "simply reincarnated the earlier cigarette tax bills under a new name."
Supreme Court justices ordered the state to respond to the allegations by July 7.