Statewide smoking ban clears House committee without a 'no' vote

02/07/2013 02:01 PM

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: A statewide smoke free law that would ban smoking in most public places cleared the state House Health and Welfare Committee without opposition, although several Republican representatives said they were “conflicted” about it.

The measure, H.B. 190, heads to the full House after the committee voted 11-0 with four Republicans passing.

But the bill has bipartisan support. Republican Caucus Chairman Bob DeWeese, a surgeon from Louisville, said “as a doctor for life” he was proud to cast his vote for the bill in hopes it might cut smoking rates, and thus, the number of heart problems he’s had to treat over the years.

Proponents of the bill also have been highlighting the fiscal effects of a smoking ban. For instance, cutting down on exposure to second-hand smoke and encouraging smokes from quitting could save the state $500 million in Medicaid costs, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington.

Westrom, who has sponsored the bill for the last two years, said she initially preferred smoking bans to be decided on a local level. That was the same position Gov. Steve Beshear had until recently. He announced Wednesday night that he now supports the measure.

For the first time, the bill didn’t get any opposition in committee. Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, said while voters in her community rejected a local smoking ban, she realizes the health benefits of a statewide ban. Wuchner voted against it last year but said she couldn’t this year.

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, said he detests smoke and avoids places that allows it. He said he agrees with the bill “in spirit” but is reluctant to vote for any measure that could limit personal freedom.

Moore, Wuchner and Republican Reps. Ben Waide of Madisonville and Russell Webber of Shepherdsville were the four who passed.

Westrom said some Kentuckians don’t always have that luxury, especially if it’s a matter of finding a job in a bar or restaurant that allows smoking.

And that’s one of the reasons Republican Rep. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, co-sponsored the measure.

“No one should have to choose between their paycheck and their health,” said Rep. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, who is co-sponsoring the bill. “Compared to the other issues we’re talking about this year, this one is easy.”

The bill now goes to the full House, which didn’t vote on the measure last year because Westrom said she didn’t want it to come up for a vote only to see it die in the Senate. It still faces an uncertain future in the Senate as key leaders, such as Senate President Robert Stivers and Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, said Thursday night they don’t see the need for a statewide measure and would rather leave it up to local communities.


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