Dec 19, 2008
Workplace smoking ban dies despite a workable compromise ignored by GOP
Despite overwhelming support for an indoor smoking ban that includes bars and restaurants, the bill - House Bill 4163 - died in the early morning hours of Friday as the Conference Committee tasked to work out a compromise between the Senate passed version and the House passed version could not reach an agreement to present to their perspective bodies.
The House passed a version in December of 2007 that included exceptions for casinos and others, and the Senate passed a complete ban in May after intense pressure from non-smoking advocates finally forced a vote. The six-person bipartisan committee met for three days to find a compromise, but the bill was sabotaged by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, who assigned two staunch opponents of the ban to the committee.
All bills not passed on Thursday and Friday die, and they must be reintroduced in the new session that begins in January. Sen. Ray Basham, a tireless advocacy for smoke free workplaces in Michigan for the past decade, vowed to reintroduce the bill next month.
“I am absolutely crestfallen over this; as close as we came to seeing this effort through only to come up empty-handed, it’s very difficult,” He said in a press release. “But I haven’t given up hope over the last 10 years, and I don’t plan to start now. Going into year 11, this will remain my top priority, and I don’t care whose name is on the bills as long as this issue gets some traction.”
Although this is the farthest the bill has ever progressed in Michigan, Basham vowed to push a ballot proposal in necessary.
“This is certainly a setback, but not a defeat,” Basham said. “I will keep pushing for the health of all men, women and children in this state, and if the Legislature won’t take action on behalf of the people, I’ll see to it that we put this issue on the ballot and before the voters. I know I will see smokefree air for all Michigan workers some day, it’s just too bad it won’t be today.”
In fact, this is the first time a ban ever received a vote in Michigan, and it was voted on three times in the House and once in the Senate. The majority of lawmakers voted for it in some form. Anti-smoking advocates wasted no time in bombarding legislative offices with emails expressing their disappointment in the failure to protect the health of Michigan residents
Detroit area lawmakers were under the mistaken belief that a ban in the Detroit casinos would send people to the Native American casinos, costing Detroit much-needed jobs. Numerous studies have shown that is not true. The conference committee found a workable compromise, but the Republicans members didn’t bother to meet to consider it. The House and Senate session lasted a marathon 25 hours, beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday and continuing into 11 a.m. Friday.
The chair of the Conference Committee, Rep. Brenda Clack, called a meeting for 12:30 a.m. to consider the compromise, but subscription only MIRS reported that because Clack “was a little late,” Sen. Alan Cropsy, R-DeWitt, and Rep. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, left and could not be bothered. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond, never bothered to even show up. All three GOP members voted against the bipartisan public health issue.
The promising compromise was to pass a complete ban with an exemption for casinos until 2011. By that time, the state would be renegotiating compacts with the Indian tribes and at that time the state would insist that the tribal casinos go smoke-free.
This is a bipartisan issue, and both Democrats and Republicans have voted both for and against the bill. We need to protect the health of Michigan residents like 34 other states and 50 foreign countries have protected their residents.