Nebraska federal judge rules state cannot take tobacco sales revenue
WINNEBAGO, Neb. -- The Winnebago Tribe shared news on Monday about the sales of tobacco on the Winnebago Reservation.
A Nebraska federal judge ruled that the state cannot take the tobacco sales revenue on the reservation.
In a Facebook post, Ho-Chunk, Inc. and the Winnebago Tribe said that this "is a victory for tribal sovereignty, and ends a lawsuit by Winnebago Tribe-owned companies against Nebraska officials."
U.S. District Judge John Gerrard ruled last week that the state cannot collect the revenue from tobacco sales that are made on the Winnebago Reservation under the landmark 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement.
This agreement gives a percentage of the sales to state governments to offset public health costs related to smoking and other imposed restrictions.
"The state's regulatory overreach has damaged the ability of the Winnebago Tribe and tribes across Indian County to provide for themselves," said Nicole Ducheneaux, and attorney who represents the companies. "We are pleased the court will not allow state regulation of the Tribe's lawful business on tis own reservation."
Ho-Chunk said subsidiaries HCI Distribution and Rock River Manufacturing sued Nebraska officials in 2018 conspiring with Big Tobacco to try to impose the settlement major cigarette companies had reached with 46 states.
"The Tribe and the state have been making great strides lately in building a relationship," said Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc. "Ending this controversy is a big step in respecting each other's sovereignty."
Ho-Chunk said the ruling ended the case between HCI Distribution, Inc. - and others, and Mike Hilgers - and others in the U.S. District Court in Nebraska.
"Tribes were never part of the Master Settlement Agreement between states and Big Tobacco," Ducheneaux said. "This ruling protects the Winnebago Tribe's economic and public health interests in regulating its own tobacco sales."