Smoke-free workplace bill sees movement in House committee

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

On April 10, an anti-smoking bill received movement in the House Rules Committee, and a revised version may be making its way to the floor.

Senate Bill 63 has been sitting in the committee since January with little action. Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, chairwoman, has been opposed of the bill, even back when Sen. Peter Micciche first introduced the same bill during the 2015 legislative session. It is up to LeDoux to decide whether Senate Bill 63 makes it to a floor vote and she has remained opposed despite the sponsorship and support of about 30 legislators.

LeDoux recognized the need to put the bill to the floor for a vote though she has “some questions about this entire bill.”

“Nevertheless, in order to extend an olive branch to the people who really want this bill, I’m trying to do something to get this bill in a reasonable form so that we can get it to the floor,” LeDoux said.

The previous version of the bill prohibited smoking in most public places, like bars and restaurants. It also contained language that included the categorization of vapor products and e-cigarettes.

During the hearing on April 10, LeDoux put forth a different version of the bill that had three changes:

* Communities and municipalities could opt out of the regulation after holding a vote

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* Vaping and e-cigarettes are no longer considered under the bill’s regulations

* The regulation of marijuana is removed from the purview of the bill

Rep. Lora Reinbold spoke up against the new changes.

“It says that marijuana and vaping usage are not going to be regulated,” Reinbold said.

For Rep. Sam Kito III, the decision to create a committee substitute for the bill was made too late. He objected to adopting the new version and expressed that he had concerns about the changes.

“I think these changes are things that have been discussed in other committees. There were agreements, the bill move forward and we’ve got more than enough support for the bill as it sits on the House floor,” Kito said. “I did not appreciate having these changes being added at this late date in this forum on this particular bill.”

Reinbold said that she agreed with his comments, but Rep. Mike Chenault supported LeDoux’s introduction of the new bill. He said there was, “nothing wrong with the [House] Rules Committee introducing a [committee substitute] to a bill that is in their committee.”

Rep. David Eastman proposed three amendments that would have narrowed down exceptions for the bill, but they all failed with votes of 3-3, Kito being absent.

The committee substitute version for SB 63 was ultimately passed with a vote of 4-2. It now needs to be scheduled for a floor vote.

“It is a long time in coming and I am generally opposed to just letting bills sit in committee,” Eastman said on April 18. “I think unless there’s something you can show that is a good reason to keep working on a bill, the expectation that I have is that committees will do their work quickly according to the rules.”

“Either way, the bill belongs to the body. It doesn’t belong to a committee,” he added.

Rep. Matt Claman, vice chair of the Rules Committee, said that he supported the new version of the bill in order to get it to the floor.

“Folks wondered why I supported the revised bill and when they understood that I actually was supporting it because that was a way to get the entire bill to the floor so the House could consider amendments to that proposal, then there’s been broad support at least getting the amended version onto the floor so we can really have the full debate,” he said.

Reinbold said, through a staffer, that she believes that “people have the right to work in a smoke-free workplace.”