Dec 6, 2009
Workplace smoking ban could move this week: only a year late
Gongwer News Service is reporting that a deal on the workplace smoking ban that includes bars and restaurants proposed by Sen. Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, may lead to the bill finally be taken up by the Senate this week.
That’s good news, and good for Sen. Jelinek. However, based on the history of the effort than has overwhelming public support it raises some interesting questions. According to the story, Jelinek has drafted revisions to House Bill 4377 that would allow the Detroit casinos “to have half their gambling floors smoke-free and the other half smoking. There would be no smoking in casino restaurants and hotels.”
That makes no sense because the Senate Majority Leader still maintains he will only allow a vote on a clean bill that had no exceptions. That’s fine, but how about simply allowing a vote on a clean bill with no exceptions and get it into the conference committee? Jelinek’s compromise can be one worked out by the conference committee.
The smoking ban has been introduced every session for some 12 years, and it finally got some traction three years ago almost to the day when the House passed a bill in December 2006 with bipartisan support that banned smoking in all workplaces including bars and restaurants, but it provided exceptions for the Detroit casinos, tobacco retailers, bingo halls, horse racing tracks and so-called cigar bars. It passed by a vote of 56-46.
Some 18 months later in May 2008, the Senate approved a substitute of that bill with a bipartisan vote of 25-12 that had no exceptions. In September the House took up the substitute, and although it had the majority of votes, 50-49, it did not have a majority and failed. It needed a majority of those 110 members elected and serving - 56 votes - to pass, but Detroit area lawmakers balked, under the mistaken belief that a smoking ban will cost Detroit casinos business to Native American casinos like Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant and cost jobs.
The Senate, of course, refused to take it up, and in December 2008 as time was running out on all bills not yet approved, a bipartisan confrence committee was formed to find a compromise between the two versions. All bills not passed before Dec. 31 die, and they must be reintroduced in the new two year legislative session that begins in January.
The six-person bipartisan committee met for three days to find a compromise, but two of the three members assigned were staunch opponents and refused to negotiate in good faith. In fact, one admitted later on the Senate floor that he sabotaged the bill, and the other was rewarded for killing it by the bill’s biggest opponent.
Despite these handicaps, a number of compromises were proposed, and for all we know Jelinek’s proposal may have been one of those proposals. Despite coming up with a workable compromise, the bill was sabotaged and died.
Fast forward to the current session, and in May of this year, the House passed the same bill with exceptions with bipartisan support by a vote of 73-31, as opposed to a vote of 56-46 in 2006.
The solution is simple: the Senate should pass a clean bill like they did in 2008 because the make up of the Senate is still the same as last session, with one exception. Let the House vote on a clean bill wilt no exceptions, and based on the number of freshman lawmakers from last session and the larger margin of victory, I’m pretty sure it will pass. Even if it doesn’t, it will get the bill in a conference committee with an entire year to come up with an agreement instead of just three days.
And, if the Senate assigns all three members who will negotiate in good faith, we will join 38 other states with a workplace smoking ban.
The bottom line is the Senate needs to take some action; any action.