The Iowa Department of Public Health is set to begin a series of public hearings Wednesday on the state’s new smoking ban that went into effect on July 1st. Bonnie Mapes leads the Health Department division that oversees implementation of the “Iowa Smokefree Air Act” and says a public comment is required on the rules for the enforcement.
Mapes says the law normally requires public comment before the law goes into effect, but for the smoking ban they only had 10 weeks from when the law was passed to get the rules written, so they used an emergency procedure to implement the rules and then seek public comment. Mapes says even though the law has been operating for about six weeks — public comments are still important.
Mapes says they want public input, and got a lot of input before the rules were finalized, and that input help them put the rules together. She says the comment process will be extensive. Mapes says they’re giving people more chance for public comment than for most rules, and say they were even taking public comment in June before the rules took effect. She encourages you to go Department of Public Health’s website on the smoking ban at: www.IowaSmokefreeAir.gov to give comments.
Mapes says people have had a chance to learn how the law works and that should help with comments. Mapes says the rules were “very well done” but you can always find little things that need clarification once the rules are out in use.
The smoking ban was a big change for the state, and Mapes says it has generated lots of calls. She says they’re still getting 30 to 40 calls or website hits about the law, which is down from 300 to 400 when the law went into effect. One thing they do not want at the hearing is comment on whether or not the law should be in place.
Mapes says they don’t have the authority to change the law, so if there are questions about the law itself — such as why smoking is allowed on gaming floors — they can’t address that. She says they can only address questions about the rules that implement the law.
The first public hearing will be held on the Iowa Communications network in Iowa City, Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Keota, Davenport and Ottumwa. See a complete schedule on the Smokefree Iowa website.