INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Two Indiana lawmakers and a manufacturer of liquid used in e-cigarettes say they have been questioned by the FBI about the creation of the state’s vaping law, according to reports published Monday.
Republican Rep. Phil Boot of Crawfordsville told the Indianapolis Star that FBI agents interviewed him last month and asked if someone benefited financially from the legislation.
“They asked me if I knew of anything anyone might have gotten out of this legislation,” said Boots said of his encounter with the FBI. “I think that’s what they’re looking at - did someone in the legislature gain from the legislation?”
The law passed last year and amended this year has given seven producers control of the Indiana market, shutting out dozens of other manufacturers that were operating in the state. It also requires that one security firm certify those manufacturers.
When contacted by The Associated Press, FBI spokeswoman Wendy Osborne would not confirm the existence of an investigation.
E-liquid producer Evan McMahon told the Star the agents he spoke to “were looking at antitrust and corruption.” McMahon gave the same account to the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Agents wanted to know which legislators and lobbyists were “cheerleaders” of the legislation, he added.
Sen. Vaneta Becker, an Evansville Republican, also told The Star she was interviewed by the FBI.
However, a lawmaker behind the amendment approved this year, Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, said he had not been contacted.
“I am kind of shocked,” he told The Star. “I know nothing about this. … I honestly don’t think there is anything there.”
Alting said he plans to advocate for changing the law when the legislature reconvenes in January.
The law required any company wanting to produce e-liquid for sale in the state to be certified by a security firm by June 30. But because of how the law was written, only one security firm in the U.S., Lafayette-based Mulhaupt’s Inc., is qualified to perform the work.
In June, owner Doug Mulhaupt said he had just learned his company is the only one to meet state requirements. At the time, the company had only approved six producers. A seventh manufacturer was awarded a permit after a federal judge ruled in its favor Friday.
In finding for Florida-based e-liquid maker GoodCat, U.S. District Judge Richard Young said the new law “effectively delegated a policy of economic protectionism to a private entity” and found “that the burden on interstate commerce clearly exceeds any purported benefits.”
In a statement, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose office is defending the law, said Young’s ruling applies only to GoodCat. He added the state should have the ability to regulate chemicals and devices within its borders.
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