Dec 15, 2008
Overwhelming pressure from smoking ban supporters rattles Senate Majority Leader
The pressure from Michigan residents to enact a workplace smoking ban, including bars and restaurants, is getting to Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.
Apparently, Bishop got hold of a letter Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, sent to the hundreds of people from all over the state who signed the smokfree dining petition on his web site. The letter informed them of the status of the bill and urged them to contact Bishop and the Republican members of the conference committee to tell them to find a compromise and pass the bill before it dies at the end of the session on Thursday. Word is Bishop is upset over the letter, and he is using the letter to accuse Basham, a member of the conference committee and a strong supporter of the ban, of not bargaining in good faith.
Republicans have floated a ridiculous compromise known as "pay to play" that should be called the more accurate name of "pay to kill." It allows the bar or restaurant owner to purchase a permit and the permit allows the owner to continue to poison his workers and non-smoking patrons.
Part of the letter said, “We must, therefore, make sure the Senate Republican Majority Leader and the Senate Republican Conferees know that a” pay to play" or "license to kill" proposal is absolutely unacceptable. To that end, I strongly urge you to contact their offices immediately with this message.”
The House and Senate both passed different versions of the smoking ban, House Bill 4163. A conference committee consists of three members from each legislative body to work out the differences in the two versions. The committee works out a compromise, and their respective bodies give it an up or down vote, and no amendments or substitutes are allowed. All three Republican members of the committee voted against the bill. How that doesn’t qualify as negotiating in bad faith, only Bishop knows.
Bishop had no intention of even allowing a vote on the bill back in May. He sat on it for five months, and even sent it to the committee he chairs where bills are sent to die. The committee has never met. Only the grassroots effort by supporters of the bill flooding his office with emails and phone calls led him to allow a vote. For him to be upset with a letter urging people to contact his office is ridiculous.
The good news is the conference committee meeting set for 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, is a go. The conference committee meeting is open to the public, and it will be held in Room 424 of the State Capitol in Lansing.
Basham is not the only person supporting the smoking ban and thinks the pay to pay option is ridiculous. Janet Olszewski, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), issued a press release today urging the legislature to pass the bill and for the committee to reject the so-called “play to pay” option.
“While compromise may be needed, the state Legislature must protect its citizens from second hand smoke," she said. "Michigan needs a strong, firm, concrete law that outright bans smoking in public places. Allowing businesses to buy their way out of the law would be unacceptable and unfair to Michigan residents."