the first, but the second would trip it up.
On March 8, Crickenberger was hoping to catch senators before they
voted on whether the tax
could advance to the full Senate. The
committee meeting was late getting started.
Only one senator was in the committee room. Crickenberger stood next to
a side door that leads
into a receptionist's office, and then through
another door into committee chairman Craigo's
office. A member of the
Senate staff shooed her away, and closed the door. The senators came
a few minutes later through that door, one right after the other in
"When they sat down, it went very smoothly," she said, "and with very
First, Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, moved to withdraw funding for the
popular veteran's home
from the bill. The only discussion came from
Sen. Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha, asking where funding
for the veterans home
would come from. He was reassured the funding would come from
in the budget. Plymale's amendment passed on a voice vote.
The anti-tobacco activists wanted to know how each member of the
committee voted on the bill,
but committee votes are usually voice
votes. Since each senator's position is not recorded on a
Crickenberger and the other anti-tobacco people resorted to trying
to read the
senators' lips. They each took one senator; Crickenberger
was trying to watch the lips of Sen.
Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas.
Crickenberger had a personal reason to watch Helmick's vote on this
tax. Her father died of
cancer of the esophagus in 1994, and
Helmick was his senator. Crickenberger had told him the
story about how
her father became addicted to snuff.
"My parents stopped smoking when my mom found out she was pregnant,"
the tobacco companies called snuff the
Her father dipped Skoal for more than 30 years before he finally was
able to quit. But it was
too late; he had developed cancer. After nine
months of radiation and surgery, the doctors sent
him home to
Pocahontas County to die.
"Walt knew what Dad went through," she
that might make a
Crickenberger tried to look Helmick in the eyes, but couldn't.
"They're sitting up above us, and the chairs lean way back," she said,
"so it's hard to even
see what they say."
Then, Sen. Billy Wayne Bailey, D-Wayne, moved to postpone the
tobaccotax bill indefinitely.
This parliamentary move is
attempted only a few times each session, and kills the bill for
rest of the session. After no discussion, the motion passed, and
the tobaccotax was dead.
"Our people started crying - not sobbing, but they had tears in their
floor, our day in court, so to speak."
Later, three senators registered their opposition to both of the killer
motions: Sen. Martha
Walker, D-Kanawha, Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion,
and Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley. Apparently,
the other 14 members of
the committee voted for the tax to die.
Leadership refuses to let tax go forward
If the full Senate had to vote on the tax, Crickenberger said,
they might approve it. But that
can't happen as long as the Senate
leadership refuses to let it go forward.
"The problem with the system is that one person can keep it from seeing
the light of day," she
Crickenberger wants to know why the Senate leadership worked so hard to
prevent the smokeless
tobaccotax from even coming to a
"Why is Craigo so opposed? Why is Tomblin? I don't know," she
Craigo said the Senate was sticking by its promise to state residents
"When you make those types of commitments, you don't make exceptions to
the rule," Criago
"We've been trying to educate lawmakers that money isn't the
issue with the smokeless tobacco
using snuff or chew."
If anyone can get the Senate to break its no-new-taxes rule, it will be
the anti-tobacco lobby,
"If there is a tax that's going to pass, it's this one," he
Byus said she hopes the cancer society and others can finally win their
battle over the tax,
and soon. Her oldest son started using
grandmother had a cigarette-induced stroke. He made a deal to quit snuff
if she quit
smoking. So far, they've both stayed off tobacco.
Byus herself quit dipping snuff when she became pregnant with her son
more than 20 years ago.
But the pull of the addiction is still strong.
"To this day, I can't allow myself to walk or run," she
time I break a sweat, the
craving for tobacco is so strong, it
drives me crazy."
To contact staff writer Scott Finn, use e-mail or call 357-4323.