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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Cigarette Tax And Miss Daisy

The last two paragraphs of the "Notes & Quotes" column in the Perspective section of today's Clarion-Ledger contain misinformation.

"Clarksdale attorney Bill Luckett and Jackson public relations consultant Rory Reardon are pushing an initiative and referendum proposal to raise the state's cigarette taxes to 59.5 cents in the next statewide general election."

What Luckett and Reardon are promoting is an initiative, through which citizens initiate legislation by placing a proposal directly on the ballot. Almost anything that can be enacted as a statutory law can alternatively be written into the state constitution, and Mississippi's difficult initiative process is for constitutional amendments only.

In contrast, when a measure is referred from the legislature to the ballot, that is a referendum. Some states have a process whereby, once the legislature has passed a bill, citizens may petition to have that measure put on the ballot, so that the voters may either approve or reject it (in other words, citizens have veto power over acts of the legislature). Mississippi does not have that type of referendum.

The Luckett/Reardon initiative would set the state cigarette tax at half the average tax of the 50 states, recalculated once a year. That average today is $1.19 per pack, half of which is indeed 59.5 cents. If and when the initiative becomes law, however, who knows what the national average will be?

"... actor Morgan Freeman, winner of the Academy Award for such popular films as Driving Miss Daisy, Kiss the Girls, Shawshank Redemption, Seven, and others."

The only Academy Award Freeman has won was for Best Supporting Actor in "Million Dollar Baby." He was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in "Street Smart" and for Best Actor in "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Shawshank Redemption."

The late Jessica Tandy won the Best Actress Oscar at age 80 for "Driving Miss Daisy." In my view, Freeman should have won the Best Actor award for his performance in that feature ("I'm tryin' to drive you to the sto'!").

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