A key leader expects Iowa lawmakers will "talk" about the state’s relatively new Smoke-free Air Act, but Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs doesn’t expect any action to either expand it or junk it in 2009.
"I guess my prediction is that there won’t be consensus found on the issue and that nothing will happen on it," Gronstal says. Some Iowa bar owners say their business has dried up because smokers may no longer light up while they’re drinking. Gronstal says for the most part, the law has worked well.
"When I talked to bartenders and waitresses this summer and fall, they were all delighted with the law. They were all delighted with being able to go home and not have take a shower after work, so I think people are pretty thrilled overall with the results of the law," Gronstal says. "Are there some people out there that don’t like it? Yes there are. Are there exemptions in it that probably shouldn’t have been put in there? There probably are, but that’s the nature of politics."
The law allows smoking on casino gaming floors in Iowa. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says that exception had to be added to get the bill passed this spring. "If there is a second look at the smoking ban (in 2009) from my perspective from the House, it would be to remove the casino floor exemption," McCarthy says. McCarthy, however, doesn’t expect that — or any action in 2009 to change the law.
"This is an organic process here. It ebbs and flows and it’s very emotional and there’s going to be a lot of people wanting to have discussions related to this issue," McCarthy says. "It was so extremely difficult to get consensus last year. I think there may be a lot of people just want to let sleeping dogs lie."
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton sympathizes with business owners who say they’re losing money because of the smoking ban. "We have absolutely trampled over individuals’ freedom to do as they wish with their private property," McKinley says.
Republican Representative Linda Upmeyer of Garner, a member of the Legislative Rules Review Committee, says the rules for implementing the law are confusing. "I would agree that I don’t think there’s really going to be much will to really get back into the law, but I really think there’s a lot of problems that people are having with it," Upmeyer says. "Some of its been kind of unreasonable." The Rules Review Committee will discuss some of the smoking ban rules Tuesday afternoon in a meeting at the statehouse.
The four legislators made their comments this afternoon at a forum sponsored by www.IowaPolitics.com .