Key lawmakers predict a smoking ban will clear the legislature this year, a ban that likely would prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants but allow it in casinos. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs predicts the matter will be resolved in a 10-member committee made up of House and Senate members.
"We could probably find a lot areas where we go halfway between the House and Senate and get out of there relatively quickly," Gronstal says. As for what the final form of that compromise might be, Gronstal suggests the end product will not allow smoking in bars and restaurants.
"It’s all about protecting public health," Gronstal says. It’s all about protecting 99 percent of the workers in the state of Iowa or more and if we can get more, that’s what we’re going to do." Three weeks ago the Senate voted for a broad ban on smoking in public places, including prohibiting smoking in bars, restaurants and casinos.
But on Wednesday, the House voted to continue to allow smoking in casinos, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol and keep kids under the age of 21 out during smoking hours. Today (Thursday), the Senate rejected that alternative. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says legislators are really wrestling with this issue.
"There’s a legislator (who) received, I think he said yesterday, 146 contacts from his district wanting a strong, pure, statewide smoking ban…I visited with another member who almost exclusively received comments in reverse from bar and restaurant owners," McCarthy says. "It kind of depends what district you’re in, but it’s so close and narrow I still think it’s possible to get a pretty good, strong bill." McCarthy admits, though, that legislators may never find common ground on this issue. "Anything’s possible, but we’re just going to keep working for a compromise," McCarthy says.