State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, will hold Senate legislation hostage unless he gets a Senate vote on a statewide smoking ban.
Brown said Wednesday he is sending a message to the Senate by refusing to sign Senate Bill 175 until two state senators sign House Bill 1132, which contains the smoking ban. Neither proposal can advance from conference committee to a final floor vote until two members of each chamber agree to the language in each measure.
“That message will be loud and clear to the Senate,” Brown said.
The Republican-controlled Senate has repeatedly refused to hold a vote on the proposed smoking ban. The Democratic-controlled House has approved the ban twice this session.
The most-recently approved version of the smoking ban prohibits indoor smoking everywhere except gaming facilities. Brown said he is willing to add exemptions for private clubs such as Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, tobacco shops and family owned businesses that have minimal public contact.
Brown is also willing to assuage Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, who wants to avoid acting on a smoking ban until next year, by making the effective date of the ban July 1, 2011.
“He says not until next year, so this doesn’t happen until next year,” Brown said.
State Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, said she won’t be bullied into agreeing to a vote on the smoking ban. Miller and Brown both serve on the conference committees for the two proposals.
“I don’t play one bill against the other, and I don’t play games here,” Miller said. “Each issue has to stand on its own merit.”
But state Rep. Earl Harris, D-East Chicago, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Brown’s maneuvers are perfectly legitimate.
“This process is a process of negotiation,” Harris said. “If that works for him, then it’s legitimate.”
Several other health-related legislative proposals are caught in the middle of the smoking ban standoff, including medical recordkeeping rules and a lead paint poisoning prevention program in Senate Bill 175 and funding distributions for long-term care services and a substance abuse program for pregnant women in House Bill 1132.
If Brown follows through on his threat and neither side is willing to compromise, none of the proposals will advance for the final floor vote required before they can be sent to the governor.
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