Dec 10, 2009

Michigan is finally smoke free

LANSING -- Michigan bars and restaurants will be smoke free on May 1 after the Michigan House and Senate passed House Bill 4377 with a bipartisan vote on Thursday.

The compromise exempts Detroit’s three casinos and so-called cigar bars, but gaining approval of the same version of the bill from both houses has been difficult.

“What better way to spread health and good cheer this time of year than passing this legislation to make Michigan workplaces smokefree,” said Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, who has championed the cause for some 12 years. “I have been working to protect the health of Michigan workers for more than ten years, and today we are taking a huge step forward for the state and executing the will of the people.”

The substitute passed the Senate by a vote of 24-13, and it immediately went across the Capitol where the House concurred in the substitute by a vote of 75-30. The governor is expected to sign the bill immediately.

The House initially passed the HB 4377 back in May, but the Senate maintained it would only take up a bill that had exceptions or carve outs. But Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, introduced the substitute with exceptions after heavy pressure from the public to get a bill done. More than 60 percent of Michigan residents support a smoking ban, and supporters have been relentless in lobbying lawmakers.

“I appreciate the bipartisan support, especially the leadership of my colleagues Senators Ron Jelinek and Tom George, to make this bill a reality,” Basham said. “Ideally, I would like to have seen this bill pass with no exemptions, but I was willing to reach a compromise to see this become law. I will continue to advocate for the health of all Michigan workers, and I hope we can revisit the issue of casino floors in the future.”

They still had to fight off substitutes and amendments that would have weakened the bill or made it harder to pass in the House. Proposals included a bill with no exceptions, allowing bars located near the casinos a waiver if they had a drop in business and an exception for Detroit Metro Airport.

The most interesting amendment came from Sen. John Gleason, D-Flushing, that proposed naming the act the “Raymond Basham Smokefree Michigan Act.”

“There is not a single person in this chamber or who has left because of term limits who hadn't been approached by Senator Basham,” Gleason said. “I think his diligence and devotion to Michigan's health care should be rewarded with this small act.”

But Basham declined because the act is named after the late Dr. Ronald Davis. Davis is the former Director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Henry Ford Health System, and he is the former president of the American Medical Association (AMA). Dr. Davis also served as director of the Center for Disease Control’s Office on Smoking and Health from 1987 to 1991.

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