The House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget discusses a cigarette tax Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (William W. Savage III)

In debating against GOP leadership’s $1.50 cigarette tax, Rep. Eric Proctor broke out the rhetorical definition of “insanity,” a word Capitol insiders have bandied about for the first 24 hours of special session.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results,” said Proctor (D-Tulsa). “Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, keep your campaign promise and vote no.”

Ultimately, 19 members of the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget voted to advance the bill, which GOP leaders emphasized Monday as their first priority for filling the $215 million health care agency-funding gap that forced the special session.

Proctor and eight other committee members voted no after a contentious meeting that started more than 30 minutes late while a committee substitute to HB 1099 (embedded below) was issued for the bill.

Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) pressed Chairman Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) on “transparency” about the late reveal of the cigarette tax language.

“Going forward, do you think we can expect a higher standard than three minutes of consideration for this major proposal?” Murphy asked.

Wallace said yes.

Murphy joined Proctor in debating against the bill, as did Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw).

“I just don’t believe raising taxes on our citizens is the answer,” Bennett said.

He paraphrased a quote attributed to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

Proctor hammered Wallace and GOP leaders for having weeks to generate a solution prior to the start of special session.

“Where is the plan? Where is the alternative plan? We know this is going to fail because it’s not going to get 76 votes tomorrow or Thursday,” Proctor said. “Bipartisanship is taking some things we like, some things you like and putting it forward. Only putting up one side of the argument over and over again when you know the votes are not here is disingenuous.”

Wallace concluded debate.

“This is on everybody’s plan. This makes common sense for the good of Oklahoma,” Wallace said.

After the vote, Wallace instructed lawmakers to look for future JCAB notices “as we continue to work for a bipartisan solution.”

Multiple committee members chuckled.

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