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In Nebraska the state actually asked permission from Big Tobacco… on writing legislation.1 Early in 2011, the Nebraska Attorney General’s office drafted legislation to revise the current Nebraska statute that enforces Big Tobacco’s demands from the MSA Agreement. This new legislation’s sole purpose is to appease Big Tobacco’s demands for states to crack down on their competition.

LB 590 will hold Indian Tribes hostage if they do not pay into an escrow fund for every cigarette they sell and yet Indian Tribes unlike the state government, get not one penny from the MSA fund.  Whether the state has the authority to pass this broader new legislation which goes beyond the original scope of the regulations of the MSA that applied to manufacturers only, remains in question. 

After the initial introduction of LB 590 in January, the legislation ostensibly went to the Revenue Committee for review but it also went back to the Nebraska Attorney’s General’s office who was very busy revising LB 590 for its own purposes and for that of Big Tobacco.

During February emails flew back and forth between members of the Attorney General’s staff and executives of Phillip Morris and R. J. Reynolds and their law firms.  Nebraska Attorney General Staffers were asking Big Tobacco’s permission on the entire bill.  “Big Tobacco” refers to the four largest tobacco companies in the United States including Philip Morris (now Altria) and R. J. Reynolds.  
 
The Attorney General’s staff in fact, asked specifically for Big Tobacco’s input… by stating “We would welcome your comments and suggestions as to the sufficiency of these legislative revisions.”2 The Big Tobacco attorneys were happy to do so, providing detailed edits, including fixing typos, throughout the document that were then incorporated into the legislation that was now back in Committee.  They also included edits adding several anti-tribal provisions. 

Following Big Tobacco’s re-write of LB 590, the bill received unanimous final approval in the Unicameral in May.

Nebraska may prove to be a testing ground… for other state legislative efforts for Big Tobacco. Based on past actions and on the fact that the Nebraska Attorney General is President of the National Attorney General’s Association, it is believed that this Nebraska legislation will become a template for other states to attempt to enact.  That potential model legislation will attack Indian Tribes throughout the country.

Once again, the government on behalf of special interests (in this case, Big Tobacco) is trying to take away the rights of Indian Tribes; to illegally deprive Tribes of sovereignty on their own reservations; to restrain trade on the reservation;  and to take away tribal revenue that is used to support tribal communities across the country.

1 ”We would welcome your comments and suggestions as to the sufficiency of these legislative revisions.” Email between Katie Spohn, Special Counsel to the Attorney General, Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, and Attorneys for Big Tobacco in refererence to revisions to LB 590, obtained through  FOI, Feb. 14, 2011.

2 ”We would welcome your comments and suggestions as to the sufficiency of these legislative revisions.” Email between Katie Spohn, Special Counsel to the Attorney General, Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, and Attorneys for Big Tobacco in refererence to revisions to LB 590, obtained through  FOI, Feb. 14, 2011.

 


 
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