The sponsor of a bill that would ban smoking in public places and some private businesses in Kentucky says House Democratic leadership has killed the measure.
Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, says a combination of pressure from lobbying groups and political concerns of colleagues with tobacco farms in their districts were behind the bill's failure.
“Some of our leadership polled here on the floor, they weren’t convinced that we had the votes," Westrom said. "And, quite frankly, I just don’t think they wanted to risk it in case it was an uncomfortable vote for somebody.”
Westrom says some lawmakers were likely “scared” by lobbyists.
Tobacco companies have spent handsomely this year, at $70,000 in lobbying expenditures in the first month of the session.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo denies that leadership killed the bill. He says support for it dwindled as the session continued.
Tobacco companies have spent nearly $70,000 in the first month of the 2014 General Assembly, according to lobbying data from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission
And the sponsor of a bill that would ban smoking in public places and some private businesses says that that money is sowing doubt over its chances in the House.
Rep. Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat, is the sponsor of the statewide smoking ban bill, which has languished on the House floor for over three weeks. She says that tobacco lobbyists routinely influence rural legislators and leadership of both parties to avoid tackling the issue.
“This does not surprise me, because they want to make sure that legislators who have a tobacco farmer in their backyard, they want them to believe that any tobacco farmer will be greatly offended if they support a health issue related to smoke-free.”
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says that mustering legislative support for a bill that would ban smoking in private businesses and public areas is “an uphill battle.”
Stumbo says that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, has only a handful of Republican votes and about 30 Democratic votes.
He says despite his support, some lawmakers are apprehensive about the ban.
“The people in Prestonsburg already have it, for example. If I vote for it, the people out in the county, who might object to it, didn’t get that same local option treatment that the city people, that the folks in the city did. And we’re running into a lot of that.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear confirmed that he is working to persuade lawmakers individually to drum up support for the bill, which has languished in the House for nearly three weeks without a vote.
Over 30 localities across the state currently prohibit smoking in public areas and in some private businesses.
A Kentucky House committee has approved a ban on indoor smoking in public places and private businesses across the commonwealth.
The House Health & Welfare Committee voted 10-3. It would provide an exemption for open spaces, and will also apply to e-cigarettes.
Sponsor Susan Westrom says the ban is needed to improve the health of all Kentuckians regardless if they smoke, and will affect a variety of workplaces.
“What they haven’t considered is, we’re not just talking about restaurants and bars. We’re talking about people who work in manufacturing companies, who work in law practices, who work in insurance companies. It’s amazing, the different types of places people work. It’s not just restaurants and bars.”
Dissenting Republicans questioned what the ban would mean for personal freedoms.
The bill now heads to a floor debate in the House.
Senator Julie Denton, who testified in support of the bill, has filed companion legislation in the Senate.
A proposed statewide smoking ban at work and in public has sailed through a Kentucky House committee.
Supporters said the bill would protect nonsmokers from the dangers of secondhand smoke. The measure was approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee on a 10-3 vote Thursday.
Committee Chairman Tom Burch says nonsmokers shouldn't have to suffer from being in the same place with smokers willing to endanger their own health.
Opponents include Republican Rep. Tim Moore. He says the bill would restrict personal freedom to use a legal product.
The measure drew bipartisan support. Republican Sen. Julie Denton says she hopes the spread of information about the risks of secondhand smoke will give the bill enough momentum to get through the General Assembly.
Supporters of a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky are once again trying to persuade a House committee to pass the the legislation this session.
The House Judiciary Committee is the second committee—after House Health and Welfare—to hear the smoking ban bill sponsored by State Rep. Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat.
This time, property rights and business rights were the main topic of questioning, but Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson told the committee that Kentucky's businesses have long supported smoking bans.
"Some say the ban will have a negative impact on business," Abramson said. "And as I said to you, the Chamber of Commerce back at home and at the state made it clear that asthma and lung cancer keep employees out of their jobs."
Supporters of a statewide smoking ban brought high-profile help from the world of sports while rallying Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda for their cause.
Urging Kentucky lawmakers to pass a statewide smoking ban, Gov. Steve Beshear and former University of Kentucky basketball player Derek Anderson spoke in favor of House Bill 190 at the rally. Currently more than 20 Kentucky communities have smoke-free laws, spanning across the state. And recent polls said that most Kentuckians support a ban.
Based on those facts, state Rep. Julie Raque Adam says the bill should be passed with bipartisan support.
"This is not a Republican or Democrat issue," said Raque Adams, a Louisville Republican who is sponsoring a House bill. "It's just one that makes sense for public health and Kentucky's economy."
Officials in a southern Kentucky city have decided to ban smoking.
The Times-Tribune reports Williamsburg City Council gave final approval on Monday to an ordinance that bans smoking in most public places, including restaurants, bars, pool halls and public areas of hotels and apartment buildings.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said he is a former smoker, but the duty of officials is to "protect everybody."
The ordinance gives employers 30 days to inform workers about the smoking ban.
Kentucky is one step closer to enacting a statewide smoking ban after legislation sailed through the House Committee on Health and Welfare Thursday.
House Bill 190, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, a Democrat of Lexington, would prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment.
It's the third year the bill has been proposed, but only the second time it's been heard in committee. Gov. Steve Beshear endorsed the proposal Wednesday night in his State of the Commonwealth address.
Sylvia Suhl, of the Central Kentucky of the American Heart Association spoke at length about the bill's support from the medical community.
Supporters of a statewide smoking ban in public places are set to try their luck in passing such a law for the third legislative session.
Smoke Free Kentucky has started an advertising campaign to raise support for the smoking ban and a recent poll showed a majority of Kentucky support such a ban.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he supports a statewide ban and believes such a bill would pass his chamber. A House committee passed the bill in 2012, but the bill's sponsor did not push it for a floor vote.
Many cities across Kentucky have implemented their own smoke free laws, including House Stumbo’s home, Prestonsburg. Lexington implemented the state's first smoke-free law in 2004.
And after three years of trying, the speaker says he believes his chamber will pass the bill.