May 10, 2009
Statewide smoking ban still stuck

It's stuck in the Senate, which is a bit odd.

The woman standing in the way of a Senate vote is Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who joined [Lance] Armstrong on the Capitol steps in February in a pledge to support it.

Nelson, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, has not allowed a vote on the bill [SB544], frustrating supporters who considered her advocacy a major boost in getting the bill passed into law.

"I have asked over and over again," said Sen. Rodney Ellis, the Houston Democrat sponsoring the measure. Ellis said Wednesday that Republican Gov. Rick Perry said he'd allow the bill to become law if it gets to his desk.

Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said she was unaware of any conversation the governor had with Ellis, but said Perry would review the smoking ban bill if and when it reaches his desk.

Nelson said she still supports the bill and that there's time to address it before the session ends June 1.

"Everybody wants to panic," Nelson said. "Things may shake loose very soon."
Asked why she hasn't allowed a vote, Nelson said she and Ellis had "an agreement" but wouldn't elaborate.

Interestingly, the companion bill HB5 got voted out of State Affairs even though at last report committee chair Rep. Burt Solomons had said he didn't support it and hadn't asked committee members about it. Well, a watered-down version that exempts bars and limits it to the 26 counties that have over 115,000 people. (Which is an interesting number to pick. According to the Census, six counties had between 100,000 and 115,000 people in 2000: Ellis, Grayson, Gregg, Potter, Randall, and Tom Green. Midland checked in at 116,000. There may be some debate as to just where this law would apply.) Kudos to him for bringing it up anyway. I don't know what Sen. Nelson's master plan is, but the clock is ticking. Thanks to Elise for the tip.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 10, 2009 to That's our Lege
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