Jan 9, 2009
Work on popular bipartisan workplace smoking ban already beginning
It has been less than a month since the bill enacting a workplace smoking ban in Michigan, including bars and restaurants, died on the last day of the 94th Congress when the Republican members of the conference committee - formed to come up with a compromise between the total ban approved by the Senate and the House-approved version that exempted casinos and others – refused to consider a compromise, but work has already begun to enact the ban this year.
The 95th Congress will not begin until Wednesday, but incoming freshman Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, told subscription only Capitol newsletter Gongwer he planned to introduce the bill when the new session opens Wednesday. The sponsor of the bill last year, Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, was term-limited. The move by Scott really illustrates support for the smoking ban is bipartisan. Scott is also making history as the first African-American Republican in the House since 1904.
Scott told Gongwer he talked with thousands of local residents during the last few months and there is steadfast support for a smoking ban.
Meanwhile, over in the Senate, the man who has championed the cause for the past decade, Sen. Ray Basham D-Taylor, plans to not only introduce the Senate version of the bill, but he plans to form a bicameral, bipartisan anti-smoking caucus, asking all lawmakers to sign a pledge that they will work on the smoking ban issue.
Basham said he was both elated and disappointed at the progress of the bill this session. It had never before even been allowed an up or down vote, but he was disapointed that it did not passes, despite a majority of lawmakers in both bodies voting for it. Shortly after the bill died on Dec. 19 he sent out a letter to supporters of the ban all across the state saying he will push a ballot initiative if necessary.
"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," he said.
Basham has a network of supporters of the ban from all over the state; collected from people signing his smoke free dinning petition, and he said the list of lawmakers who sign the pledge will be made public, as will the list of legislators who don't sign the pledge.