After six failed attempts, an Indiana Senate committee signed off on the statewide smoking ban with an 8-2 vote Wednesday. The bill now goes to the full senate for debate.
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- Ronnie J. Alting
During a four hour hearing on the statewide ban, the Senate Public Policy Committee listened to many of the same arguments they've heard in the past few years.
"Passing a smoking ban will put me out of business," said bar owner Joe Wilson. "Business is bad enough without losing all my smokers."
"What about those poor folk that have no other choice but to work in this environment," said Representative Charlie Brown, D-Gary. "And yet we wind up paying for the illnesses they contract for working in that smoking environment?"
But for the first time, the hearing didn't end with the same result.
The current bill moving into the Senate, which already passed in the House, includes exemptions for certain casinos, cigar and hookah bars, tobacco stores and nonprofit private clubs and fraternal organization. Bars would also have 18 months before the ban goes into effect.
Though the Senate committee didn't add any exemptions, both parties expect that to change.
"The Hoosier taxpayers need to weigh in at this point because this bill is going to become a different bill than what they've seen today," said Senator Greg Taylor, D–Indianapolis.
"We're going to load this bill up with a bunch of amendments and then there's going to be a lot of disappointment because we've raised the expectation that we're going to have some sort of a statewide smoking ban," said Senator Mike Delph, R–Carmel. "I don't think the advocates are going to be happy with the final product."
The question now is whether a bill loaded with exemptions will pass at all.
"I don't predict that it will during this session," Senator Taylor said. "I hope it does though."
Governor Daniels has said he will sign a smoking ban, but favors fewer exemptions.
"Obviously I'm like the governor, I want as few exemptions as possible," Senator Alting said. "However any bill that you pass is going to be better than what we've got now."