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Bill to allow beach smoking bans is snuffed out

Publication Date: 2013-02-20
  • Author:Kathy Adams
  • Publication: Norfolk (VA) Virginian-Pilot

Donny Damon took Tuesday off from work, woke early and by 4:30 a.m. had left his Virginia Beach home for Richmond.

On the way, he rehearsed the speech he planned to deliver to lawmakers, asking them to allow localities to ban smoking on public beaches. He would list the health and environmental perks and had drafted the perfect closing line: "Is Virginia for lovers, or is Virginia for litterbugs?"

But when he arrived at the Capitol, he found his proposal had been quietly snuffed out.

The House General Laws Committee assigned to vet SB1253 met for the last time last week and never gave the bill a hearing, killing its chances of passing into law this year. Damon thought the panel would meet again Tuesday morning.

So did Sen. Ralph Northam, the bill's patron. He said that's never happened to him before, and that he has submitted a letter to the committee's chair, Del. Chris Jones, a Suffolk Republican, asking for an explanation.

"It's their prerogative to do that," said Northam, a Democrat who represents sections of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore.

"But it's extremely disrespectful.... It flies in the face of democracy."...

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