Members of the Indiana House of Representatives passed an amendment that would impose a statewide ban on smoking in public places.
The last minute move came some three and a half months into a session that will end on April 28th.
As written, the measure has the potential to impact St. Joseph County’s existing ban, and a proposed ban now being debated in Goshen.
In St. Joseph County, the local ordinance gave some small restaurants the opportunity to apply for a waiver. The waiver gives the establishments until April of 2008 before they have to ban smoking.
Those same restaurants would have to ban smoking this July, under the terms of the proposed statewide ban.
In Goshen, the City Council is scheduled to act next week on its own proposed smoking ban. That ban, as now written, would apply to bars---while the proposed statewide ban would not.
“To use a little pun, I’m sure some of our people in Goshen will use it as a smokescreen, to try and delay or not vote on our amendment at all,” said Richard Pedler, the Chairman of Tobacco Control of Elkhart County.
Pedler has spent months pushing for the Goshen ban, and he isn’t holding his breath that the statewide version unveiled Monday will become the law of the land.
“I’m a little concerned that the state legislation since it came out of nowhere, probably is going to face some pretty serious challenges.”
Meantime, the very state lawmaker who made waves by introducing the last minute amendment hints that he might still have some more surprises up his sleeve.
According to Representative P. Eric Turner of Marion, “It’s too early to tell, there’s two and a half weeks left in the session and I’m going to work to try to keep it as a part of Senate Bill 503.”
A day after the amendment was added; the bill passed the House by a vote of 86-to-12.
The statewide smoking ban language was attached to a measure that contained planks of the Healthy Indiana Plan.
That’s the plan promoted by Governor Mitch Daniels.
It proposes raising the cigarette tax and using the proceeds to provide health coverage for the uninsured.
The measure now goes to a Conference Committee, that will try to iron out differences between the House and Senate passed versions.