May 22, 2009

Doctors grill Dillon and Bishop on why there is no workplace smoking ban

LANSING -- On the day the House Regulatory Reform Committee reported out House Bill 4377 that bans smoking in most workplaces, including bars and restaurants, those Legislative leaders responsible for dragging their feet on this important public health issue got an earful from those who see the devastating effects of smoking and deadly secondhand smoke.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, were two of seven Legislatures on a panel Wednesday at the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) Leadership Conference, and despite some pressing concerns facing physicians in the state, such as state public health dollars being cut, Medicaid reimbursement rates getting cut another 4 percent, talk of individual health care reform and Blue Cross/Blue Shield increasing and a possible “physicians tax” on the horizon, the hot topic was the smoking ban. In fact, subscription only MIRS reported the two leaders were “grilled” on the subject.

Even Dillon’s announcement that the bill had moved out of committee just minutes ago did not appease the angry physicians. According to MIRS, one speaker told the legislators that “she's tired of hearing in incremental updates about how a bill is in this chamber or committee, or whatever. She said it's been a year since legislative leaders addressed MSMS and the bottom line is that nothing has changed. Smoking is still allowed in bars, restaurants and casinos while Ohio, Wisconsin and an increasing number of states along Tobacco Road can manage a smoking ban.”

MSMS Past President Michael Sandler urged the lawmakers to just get it done with an impassioned speech, and he said there are no roadblocks or reasons not to get it done.

“This is not a partisan issue. Just get it done. You've got a study from (former Senate Majority Leader and current Public Sector Consultants analyst Ken) Sikkema that shows you don't lose money,” he said. “If you have to have an exemption or two, fine. This is something the Legislature can do that won't take budget wrangling to get done. Please. You'll look great."

Bishop has the biggest roadblock, only allowing a vote on a bill with no exceptions, and he has refused to compromise. That has been his cover to kill something 70 percent of Michigan residents support but he doesn’t.

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