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Proposed statewide smoking ban in peril

Publication Date: 2011-03-23
  • Author:Dan Carden
  • Publication:Northwest Indiana Times

A House-approved statewide indoor smoking ban may not get a Senate committee vote if supporters cannot agree on whether they can accept limited exemptions.

On Wednesday, the Senate Public Policy Committee heard three hours of public testimony on House Bill 1018, sponsored by state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary. That measure exempts casinos, bars, tobacco shops and nursing homes from the proposed smoking ban.

But representatives of anti-smoking groups and some committee members said the legislation should be a total ban on all indoor smoking. At the same time, other lawmakers proposed additional exemptions to include charity bingo sites and restaurant patios.

State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, chairman of the committee, said if lawmakers cannot agree on whether to have exemptions and what they should be, he likely won't allow a committee vote on the legislation. Without committee approval the measure cannot advance to the full Senate.

"There's a lot of people that want all-or-nothing and if that's the case it probably won't go anywhere because I don't think they have the support for a total ban," Alting said. "When I got elected 13 years ago, the advocates that want all-or-nothing are still here 13 years later with nothing."

Alting said he's inclined to send the legislation to the full Senate without any changes because any change would require the legislation go back for approval to the Indiana House, where action is stalled due to the Democrats' walkout.

Brown, who wants the exemption for bars removed from the proposal, said he's confident House Democrats will return before the mandatory adjournment date of April 29, allowing a House-Senate conference committee to work out differences in separately passed bills.

This is the first time in five years that Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, has allowed a Senate committee hearing on a House-approved smoking ban proposal.

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