Dec 16, 2008
Senate Majority Leader continues to try and sabotage smoking ban
LANSING -- The push to reach a compromise on the workplace smoking ban is still alive, despite the best efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop to politicize a bipartisan issue and kill the bill.
The Conference Committee that is charged with coming up a compromise between the Senate and House passed version met for some two hours Tuesday without reaching an agreement, and another meeting has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in Room 424 of the State Capitol in Lansing. The conference committee meeting is open to the public.
Bishop has always been against the bill, and he has done his best to kill it at every turn. When the House first passed the bill way back in December 2007 that included an exception for casinos, he sent it the committee he chaired, the Committee on Government Operations and Reform instead of the more logical Health Policy Committee. Bishop’s committee has never met, and it’s where bills go to die. The Health Policy committee is chaired by a medical doctor who supports the ban.
After constant pressure from the 80 percent of Michigan residents who support the important public health issue, he finally allowed a vote, and in May the Republican-controlled Senate passed a substitute bill introduced by Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, with a bipartisan vote that enacted a total ban.
Bishop then assigned two of the most conservative senators who both voted against the bill to the three-person Senate contingent to the conference committee instead of one of the nine Republicans Senators who voted for the bill.
Bishop was upset over the weekend over a letter Basham sent to supporters from all over the state. The letter called a ridiculous compromise proposal the Republicans floated known as "pay to play" that allows the bar or restaurant owner to purchase a permit that allows the owner to continue to poison his workers and non-smoking patrons. What it really is is "a license to kill."
Bishop was on rightwing radio station WJR this morning, and he said Basham, who has been fighting for the smoking ban for a decade, was “out of control on the issue, and has let emotion takeover.”
He also continued to try and further politicize the bipartisan public health issue by blaming the House Democrats for the license to kill; saying the so-called license to kill “compromise” came from Rep. Barb Farrah, D-Southgate. That doesn’t make much sense because Farrah voted against the bill both times; with the exceptions and without them.
There is no excuse for not getting this done before all bills died after Thursday when residents so overwhelmingly support a smoking ban. I want to see a total indoor ban like the Senate passed, but I know that sometimes compromises have to be made. All or nothing isn’t the way to go. I can see talking a bite of the apple now and protecting the health of as many workers and customers as possible, and when a partial ban proves what 33 other states and entire countries like Italy, Scotland and Ireland already know - that a ban does not hurt business - we can finish off the apple and a total ban will be put into effect.