Senate has not yet taken action on smoking ban bill

The smoke still has not cleared between the Michigan House and Senate on whether state residents should be allowed to enjoy cigarettes while dining.

It has been six months since the Michigan House passed a statewide smoking ban for public places, such as restaurants and bars, and the Senate still has not picked up the bill, which exempts casinos and cigar bars. Some representatives still are pushing for the Senate to take action on the bill, but experts said disagreement between the two houses could mean the Senate might not pick it up at all.

“Having just finished up the budget process, we are looking at our agenda for the upcoming year and we haven’t had any discussion of how we will address the smoking ban,” said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

The Senate passed a smoking ban with no exemptions in 2008, but the House never picked up that bill, he said.

“If there is going to be a smoking ban, we don’t believe there should be carve-outs for certain establishments,” Marsden said.

But exempting casinos and cigar bars would create a “middle ground,” and 99 percent of public establishments still would be smoke free without negatively impacting the casinos of Detroit, said state Rep. Lee Gonzales, D-Flint.

“In the … days that we have before the end of the year, there are a lot of folks that want to get this smoking ban on the books in some form,” Gonzales said.

But the Senate’s lack of action suggests it might not pick up the House Bill at all, said Bill Ballenger, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

After a bill is voted on in one legislative house, it has two legislative years to be passed in the other house. The Senate has until December 2010 to take action on this bill, Ballenger said.

“The suspicion is that the Senate doesn’t really want this bill,” he said.

Some students said they think an across-the-board ban is the only fair option.

“I feel like no smoking should be allowed in any public place,” public health graduate student Mariana Wong said. “(Allowing smoking) really excludes people who have some (health) predispositions.”

As long as the ban would include all bars and restaurants, business wouldn’t suffer, said Eric Skusa, general manager at The Peanut Barrel Restaurant, 521 E. Grand River Ave., which allows smoking.

“You just have to make plans and live with it,” he said. “You’ll have a downturn at first, and hopefully, it will come back.”

But executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association Lance Binoniemi said passing this would come at a time when the Michigan hospitality industry already is struggling.

“This is only going to make it worse — it could cost jobs,” Binoniemi said.

source: http://www.statenews.com

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