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News Summary

Rendell's veto threat sets back compromise on smoking ban

Publication Date: 5/12/2008
  • Author:MARC LEVY
  • Publication:Philadelphia Inquirer

A last-minute veto threat from Gov. Ed Rendell derailed a proposed compromise on legislation to ban smoking in most public places in Pennsylvania, a state senator said Monday.

Rendell issued the threat just hours before a joint House-Senate committee was to meet to vote on legislation that has been mired in disagreement for 10 months.

The governor, who has made a smoking ban part of an effort to reduce health care costs, told reporters Monday that he would veto a bill that contains too many exemptions or wipes out a stronger ban enacted by the city of Philadelphia.

Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, who wrote the compromise bill, said the six-member conference committee was ready to vote on his bill Monday, which would have stopped local governments from passing their own laws on smoking. It would have blocked enforcement of Philadelphia's ban.

But support for his proposal fell apart after Rendell's veto threat prompted one committee member, Senate Democratic Leader Robert Mellow, to reconsider, McIlhinney said.

"This whole issue is coming down to Philadelphia getting its own law or not," McIlhinney, R-Bucks, said.

McIlhinney's proposal would look a lot like a bill that passed the state Senate last June. Like that bill, it would ban smoking in most public places and workplaces, including arenas, stores, restaurants, and convention halls, but it would allow smoking in private clubs, bars and portions of casinos, and would bar local governments from imposing their own smoking bans.

The House passed a stronger bill in July that would also ban all smoking in casinos and bars, while allowing local governments to enforce stronger bans.