The Iowa Senate has given final approval to a bill that would ban smoking in most public places around the state. There would be exceptions as, for example, smoking would still be allowed on the gaming floors at the state-licensed casinos.
Senator Staci Appel, a Democrat from Ackworth, was the last to speak after over two hours of senate debate. "We simply cannot sit back and pretend our friends, our neighbors and our family members are not suffering each day from second-hand smoke," Appel said.
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said attitudes about smoking have changed. "This is a debate about what the next generation will have in the State of Iowa as it relates to clean air and safe workplaces," McCoy said. "…You can argue all you want about personal liberties and rights but the bottom line is there is no level of secondhand smoke that is safe."
Senator Rich Olive, a Democrat from Story City, wanted an outright ban on smoking in public places with no exceptions, but changed his mind and voted for the compromise. "A few minutes ago I looked up in the balcony and there were, I don’t know, 40 or 50 kids up there…and they changed my mind," Olive said. "When you look at our kids and I think about my kids and my grandkids, we need to do whatever we can to move this (smoking ban) forward."
Critics in the senate railed against the proposal. Some questioned the validity of studies indicating secondhand smoke causes lung cancer. Others, like Senator Mark Zieman — a Republican from Postville, argued a smoking ban is a slippery slope. "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have," Zieman says. "I’m very concerned about the road that this is taking us down and how this is intruding into personal lives."
Senator Dennis Black, a Democrat from Grinnell, went so far as to suggest the law would put the state on the path toward totalitarianism. "Although I want to see far less smoking…I just fear that passing this…makes us all criminals just waiting to be arrested," Black said.
Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, called the compromise "crap" because it still allows smoking at the casinos. "To hell with the small businesses in Iowa, to hell with our small communities, but by golly let’s save the 17 casinos," McKibben said during Tuesday afternoon’s debate in the senate.
Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, said the smoking ban is just more government intrusion. "Next up, transfats," Zaun predicted, "so I’ll probably see if I’m re-elected down here no more Big Macs, no more Whoppers, no more monster burgers, no more ‘Fat Man’s Specials’ at George the Chili King’s."
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs suggested the difference between smoking and over-eating was that you don’t blow transfats in the faces of other patrons. "I’m talking about protecting workers from secondhand smoke and you have an opportunity today to say 95,000 of them will get a little bit of a break. You think the average guy that’s looking for a bit of a social life is going to quit going out and showing up at bars?"
On a 26 to 24 vote, the Senate endorsed the compromise plan that emerged Monday night from House and Senate negotiators. The Iowa House endorsed the plan earlier Tuesday.
"Governor Culver congratulates the House and Senate for working together on this important initiative which will make Iowa a healthier state, and he looks forward to signing the bill into law," said Brad Anderson, a spokesman for the governor.