Legislative leaders say they won’t bring up a bill to modify the state smoking ban this session despite a long list of backers for the issue. Representative McKinley Bailey, a Democrat from Webster City, introduced the bill to exempt outdoor seating areas of bars and restaurants from the ban.
He says lawmakers never intended those areas to be a part of the ban. Bailey says, "I think the proof of that is sort of the diverse nature of the 51 co-sponsors. We have members who never voted for any version of the smoking ban. We have members who have voted for every version of the smoking ban who’ve signed on. Because I think for them it’s about more than about whether the smoking ban is right or wrong. We don’t think that the bill we passed is being followed."
Bailey says the rules set up by the Health Department went beyond what lawmakers intended when the ban started in July, and his bill would correct that. "We tried to make this bill just incredibly common sense. A fix to what we sort of see as an abuse of power by the Department of Public Health during the rule making process," Bailey says.
The bill has 51 co-sponsors, more than half of the Iowa House, but House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says the House won’t debate the bill because there’s no support in the Senate. Murphy says, "We need to give at least a full year to the cigarette law that was passed last year. I know there might be some fixes to it but I just don’t think it’s something we would consider because if the Senate’s not going to do it why waste our time."
Murphy says the bill would be too much of a distraction. Murphy says it would re-open the whole issue after what was a long debate last year. "We need to focus on middle class families, we need to focus on education, health care, we need to make our focus on the things that are important to Iowans and not get caught up in this debate this year."
Anti-smoking advocates applauded Murphy’s position, saying re-opening the debate would only give opponents a chance to repeal the ban altogether.