North Dakota’s State Auditor Bob Peterson released a report (see below) related to the state’s Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control.
This entity was created by voters with a measure approved on the 2008 ballot. It created the center and, per the law, requires that it fight tobacco in accordance with the federal Centers for Disease Control’s “best practices.” The law also mandates a once-per-biennium audit to ensure that the board is following the CDC’s best practices.
Which is how the auditor’s office ended up recommending that the State of North Dakota hike the per-pack tax on cigarettes by 243 percent.
Here’s a screen shot from the auditor’s report (this is from page 13, you can read the entire report below).
As you can see, the anti-tobacco activists at the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control agree with the auditor’s finding (of course they do), and plan to pursue the tax hike during the 2015 legislative session.
And you can bet, if legislators don’t pass a hike, that the Center will push an initiated measure to hike the tax.
But how, exactly, do we get to the point where an auditor is suggesting major policy changes and issue activism in a report?
Don’t blame the auditor for this. His mandate is to ensure that the Center is following the law. And for better or worse, the law approved by the voters mandates that the Center fight tobacco in the manner set forth by the CDC.
The thing is, I don’t think voters knew they were authorizing this level of activism when they approved that ballot measure in 2008. If anything, this illustrates exactly why we shouldn’t be enshrining issue activism as official duties of the government.