Dec 4, 2008
Workplace smoking ban inches toward reality with conference committee
Time is running out for the Michigan workplace smoking ban, including bars and restaurants, despite action in the House on Wednesday, but the person dragging his heels is the person who has done so all along, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.
On Wednesday in the Lame Duck session, the House moved to send House Bill 4163 to a conference committee to work out the differences in the version passed by the House and the one passed by the Senate. You may recall that in December 2007 the House passed a version that excluded casinos, tobacco retailers, bingo halls, horse racing tracks, cigar bars and private residences where a business is run with the owner being the only employee. But Bishop sat on the bill and refused to allow a vote.
However, pressure by constituents, voters and lobbying by the sponsor of the Senate version, Sen. Ray Basham, led Bishop to allow a vote, and in May the Senate passed a clean version of HB 4163 that did away with the exceptions.
The conference committee consists of three members from each body, and they work out a compromise. Once the compromise is reached, they present the conference report to their respective bodies. The conference report gets an up or down vote, and no amendments or substitutes are allowed.
The conference committee members on the House side are Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, - the sponsor of HB 4163 - and House Minority Floor Leader Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell.
Bishop has not assigned any conferees from the Senate side, and he has indicated he has no intention to do so because he opposes a bill that has exceptions. The common sense thing to do is pass something and join the 33 other states to date that protects the public from deadly secondhand smoke.
Today is the last day of session, with three tentative days next week and three more the following week before the session is over and all bills die. Word is the Senate will meet next week, but not the week of Dec. 16. We need to act now.
Please contact Bishop and urge him to allow a vote on this important public health issue. He can be reached at (517) 373-2417 via fax at (517) 373-2694 or email at email@example.com.