OLYMPIA - A group of Washington state retailers with roll-your-own cigarette machines filed suit last week against the state Department of Revenue and Liquor Control Board, seeking to overturn a new law that raises taxes on cigarettes produced with RYO machines, The Olympian reports.
House Bill 2565 takes effect July 1 and passed 27-19 in the state Senate. However, according to plaintiffs RYO Machine (a RYO manufacturer), ½ Price Smokes (a RYO retailer) and Dana Henne (a Washington state customer), because the legislation increases taxes it should have required a two-thirds vote to pass the Legislature. Court documents maintain that plaintiff Henne uses the RYO machine because her arthritis makes it difficult for her to manually roll cigarettes.
Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center, which supports a supermajority requirement for tax increases, said the lawsuit could force the state Supreme Court to rule on the law€™s constitutionality. Previous court challenges have failed, with courts ruling that plaintiffs didn€™t have legal standing to sue.
"The only way that you can actually really have standing to change this is if the Legislature was to enact a tax without the two-thirds and someone was harmed by that, and that€™s what you see with the roll-your-own case," Mercier said.
Proponents of the new law maintain legislators have legal authority to make the change, as it reflects a consistent approach to taxing cigarettes.
"As technology changes, the Legislature is capable of saying: 'This is a cigarette, and this should be taxed like a cigarette,€™" said T.K. Bentler, executive director for the Washington Association of Neighborhood Stores.