May 27, 2009
Smoking ban passes House with bipartisan support but exceptions may kill it
LANSING – The workplace smoking ban passed in the House Tuesday with bipartisan support, but the exceptions in the bill will just give Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, an excuse to kill a bill he doesn’t support but 70 percent of Michigan residents do support.
After holding a caucus most of the afternoon on Tuesday, the House leadership allowed a vote on House Bill 4377 that bans smoking in casinos and so-called cigar bars. The bill passed by a vote of 73-31 vote.
In a true bipartisan vote, 17 Republicans voted for the bill, and seven misguided Democrats voted no. There were 12 amendments submitted to the bill, including some silly ones, like exceptions for race tracks and making a smoke filled place in a bar that employees would allegedly not have to enter. Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, and Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, offered amendments for a total ban, but House leadership refused to even allow a vote on those amendments.
This is the same scenario that developed last session when the House passed a version with exceptions and the Senate passed a version with no exceptions, and Bishop assigned two members to the conference committee to work out a compromise between the two versions who refused to negotiate, killing the ban But the overwhelming number of supporters of the ban are looking on the bright side and hoping this will get the ball rolling. The bill got 17 more votes this time than when the bill passed by a vote of 56-46 in December 2007.
The real indication of how serious Bishop is may be what committee the bill is referred to. Last session it was buried in the committee he chairs that never meets, the Committee on Government Operations and Reform. The common sense place is the Health policy Committee, but the chair of that committee, a medical doctor, favors the ban. But there is indication he may actually try to reach a deal.
It was telling than Bishop’s mouthpiece Matt Marsden was quoted as saying “the Senate will set the agenda on when to act on the matter and not be pressured by any group on a different time frame for action.” Bishop’s office has been flooded by supporters of the bill, and that was the only reason he even allowed a vote last year, not expecting it would pass.
The opponents of the ban put out their usual false talking points when hearing news of the bill’s passage. Lance Binoniemi, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, put out his usual debunked, false talking point about how it will cost jobs.
"I challenge lawmakers to explain to the thousands of workers they just turned their backs on, why their jobs aren't worth protecting," he said "It's a sad day for Michigan when Las Vegas-based casinos are worth protecting and Michigan's mom and pop businesses are penalized.”
I challenge Binoniemi, again, to explain how just 20 percent of the population can have so much effect on the economy, and why the 37 other states that have a smoking ban are not experiencing job loess. He is silent. It seems he is more interested in selling cigarettes than booze.