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News Summary

'Local Option' Differences Holding Up Smoking Ban

Publication Date: 5/20/2008
  • Author:Bradley Vasoli
  • Publication:Evening Bulletin, PA

A conference committee tasked with finalizing a statewide ban on smoking in workplaces faces gridlock over whether to allow localities to enact bans stricter than the state legislation.

Unless changes are made in the six-member committee, Philadelphia, Erie County, Allegheny County and other jurisdictions would not be able to prohibit smoking more strictly than would the commonwealth. Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow (D-Lackawanna), a member of the committee, has offered an amendment to the legislation that would allow the localities to do so.

Support for this prerogative, known as "local option", does not at this writing have sufficiently broad support to pass. Mr. Mellow, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) and Rep. Mike Gerber (D-Montgomery) all are prepared to vote for Mr. Mellow's measure but Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks) and Reps. Bob Belfanti (D-Northumberland) and Ron Miller (R-York) remain opposed.

Some members of the committee assert that Mr. Mellow's support for local option contrasts sharply with his earlier reported reluctance to back it.

Gov. Ed Rendell says that any smoking ban that does not provide local option will not receive his signature. Supporters of a comprehensive ban view the matter as crucial since the statewide bill as currently written permits smoking in private clubs, parts of casinos and taverns where food makes up 20 percent or less of gross sales.