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Statewide smoking ban stalled

It may be a bit premature to write its obituary, but not by much.

Sen. Jane Nelson said she is in no rush to push a proposed statewide smoking ban through her Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday. The remarks came as supporters spent a day lobbying for the measure at the capitol, holding a press conference and filling a committee hearing to standing room only on a House version of the measure

“We have a month to go,” said Nelson, R-Lewisville, a ban supporter. “It’s not like the session ends tomorrow.”

The proposals, sponsored by Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, in the House and Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, in the Senate, would ban smoking across Texas, with some exceptions, such as private residences, sections of nursing homes and some clubs. Supporters stress that there is a proven danger in second-hand smoke. Opponents argue it would violate personal liberty.

But Nelson said given the Senate’s backlog, she’d rather focus on bills that are more likely to pass and wants the House to move first. Rep. Burt Solomons, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, where House version of the bill waits for a vote, said he does not support a statewide ban and is yet to gauge committee support.

Ellis said he has the votes to get the bill to the full Senate and has already asked Nelson for a vote.

The Senate’s calendar isn’t as crowded as the House’s, but this is crunch time, and I at least don’t see bright prospects for anything that isn’t out of committee soon. Especially given that the House version of the bill is in a committee headed by an opponent of the measure, who hasn’t brought it up yet. Here’s the Star-Telegram‘s take:

Earlier Tuesday, supporters of the ban ratcheted up pressure on lawmakers to vote on the legislation by delivering almost 10,000 petition signatures to the Capitol.

“The clock is ticking,” said Cass Wheeler, a retired CEO of the American Heart Association who represents the group Smoke-Free Texas. “We are here to remind Texas lawmakers that Texans want a smoke-free state.”

[…]

The Texas Restaurant Association’s board of directors has supported the statewide ban, saying it would level the playing field.

Before the committee hearing, Flower Mound Mayor Jody Smith stood with Wheeler outside the Senate chamber at a news conference calling on the House and Senate committees to send the bills to the floor for votes.

Flower Mound adopted a local smoking ban that took effect Jan. 1, and she said the outcome should give lawmakers the “strength to pass these bills” even though they have detractors.

Many Flower Mound businesses that initially resisted the ban have changed their minds and “now are calling our office to say, ‘Thank you, my business is thriving,’ ” Smith said.

Twenty-five other states have already enacted statewide smoking bans, Wheeler said.

Smoke-Free America said it took a poll in January that found that 68 percent of Texans support a statewide ban.

Despite the apparent popularity of the ban and the support of the restaurant lobby, this doesn’t look to me like it’s going anywhere. I thought this session would be different, what with all the local action on the smoke-free front, but I guess not.

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2 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    The only restaurants and bars wanting a statwide ban are those that lost business to neighboring communities, trying to get some of their customers back.

  2. Baby Snooks says:

    If the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society really were concerned about our health, they would be lobbying for stronger legislation to force industry to address the real number one cause of heart and lung disease and cancer in this country which is air pollution. But instead they focus on smoking.

    If everyone in this country stopped smoking, it is doubtful there would be a decrease in “smoking-related” conditions and disease.

    Not to mention that there would be no taxes coming in to pay for children’s health insurance in this country.

    What would they tax at that point? They’ve run out of things to tax that people will support. All that’s left are the nasty smokers. And once we’re gone, well, there may not be any children’s health insurance.