Sep 23, 2008
Smoking bill gets the majority of votes but not enough
LANSING – After a lively debate, House Bill 4163 that bans smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, failed to get enough votes to be approved and sent to the governor on Tuesday, despite getting a majority of votes.
The vote was to concur with the Senate passed version of HB 4163 approved in May. It needed a majority of those 110 members elected and serving - 56 votes - to pass, but it only passed 50-49 with 10 not voting and one abstaining. The Majority Floor Leader moved to reconsider the vote and passed it for the day.
The House passed the original version back in December that included exceptions for casino gaming floors, tobacco retailers, bingo halls, horse racing tracks and so-called “cigar bars,” but the Senate passed a version with no carves outs in May after enormous pressure from constituents.
“Are we not obligated to do the best for the welfare of the people of this state,” said Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, the sponsor of bill. “Many people have to walk the plank at their jobs to avoid the smoke, and they are forced to endure the smoke all day,”
The bill passed by 10 votes in December, but Detroit area lawmakers balked on Tuesday, under the mistaken belief that a smoking ban will cost Detroit casinos business to Native American casinos like Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant. That’s despite a report released by the Lansing research firm Public Sector Consultants Inc. called “Smokefree workplaces: The Impact of House Bill 4163 on the Restaurant and Bar Industry in Michigan.” The report concluded that "the vast majority" concluded there is no net economic impact on bars and restaurants. It also included polls showing increasing public support for bans, with support even stronger after bans have been enacted.
Clack called out Rep. Bert Johnson, the chair of the Detroit delegation in the House for not supporting the bill.
“It bothers me that the Representative from the 5th District still opposes this bill even after I held it until after the primary,” she said. “ I kept my promise.”
The opposition from Republicans was the usual rhetoric that it infringed on personal freedoms, yet no one is trying to outlaw smoking. Some of the opposition bordered on hysterical.
“I believe this is the most un-American bill in American history,” said Rep. Rick Jones, R-Oneida Township. “It will damage Detroit casinos in Detroit that pay taxes.”
One Republican Representative went so far as to say it’s unfair to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan because they can’t smoke in the private VFW hall, and that because cigarettes were included in C-rations during World War II the workplace ban was bad.
Of course, that ignored the fact that the military began going smokefree at bases, installations and ships in the early 1990s, and the Surgeon General’s warnings and evidence did not go on cigarette packs until well after the end of WWII.
But Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, dispelled that myth by reading quotes from the newly elected national VFW commander that said as long as smoking is still permitted indoors, “no one will want to join a VFW health club … or bring their children to a VFW day care center … or log-on at a VFW Cyber Café.” Meisner also dispelled the myth that the casinos will lose money just because less than 25 percent of the population has to step outside for two minutes to have a cigarette.
“I’m standing here to tell you as the chair of the Commerce Committee to tell you that there is no loss of revenue,” he said.