Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky General Assembly’

Recapping the Smoking Ban Debate

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

How far are you willing to let government go to regulate a legal activity?

That was a key question that arose in Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight as those for and against a statewide smoking ban engaged in a spirited debate.

“I don’t like smoking, I’m not a smoker, and I dislike it,” said Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions and an opponent of a ban. “But I dislike even more government telling a private property owner that they can’t allow a legal activity on their property.”

Dr. Shawn Jones, past president of the Kentucky Medical Association said that government already regulates private property owners through laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said making an establishment accessible to those in wheelchairs is similar to making it accessible to individuals with other health issues.

“Many courts in other states have decided that if I have asthma or reactive airway disease, and you allow smoking in your restaurant, you are barring access to me just as surely as if there was not a wheelchair-accessible ramp,” Jones explained.

“No one is forced to go into these establishments,” countered Ken Moellman of Northern Kentucky Choice. “It is an individual choice.” He said his group is promoting a labeling system for businesses the clearly tells people that the establishment allows smoking and that patrons assume any health risks by entering it.

Ashli Watts, manager of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which supports a ban, emphasized the proposed law isn’t just to protect patrons, but employees as well. She said the Chamber isn’t advocating for any additional unnecessary regulations, but that government does have a role in preserving the health and well-being of its citizens.

“For us this is no different than us telling a private restaurant owner or a private bar owner they must serve clean water or they must serve clean food,” Watts explained. “And, yes, smoking is a legal activity, but so is drinking alcohol. However when someone drinks alcohol and then gets behind the wheel and it could affect someone else’s health, that’s when government has a right to step in and take care of that other person.”

Which led Waters to ask how far citizens are willing to let government go to regulate legal behaviors.

House Bill 173, a statewide smoking ban proposed by Rep. Susan Westrom (D-Lexington) to cover public places of business and employment, is currently before the House Health and Welfare Committee. Sen. Julie Denton (R-Louisville) has said she will file a similar bill in the Senate.

Click here to watch the full Kentucky Tonight discussion.

A Review of Proposed Smoking Bans in the Commonwealth

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Given the significant role tobacco has played in Kentucky agriculture, economics, and history, it’s no surprise that attempts to reduce its use have faced steeped opposition. While 28 cities and 11 counties around the state have approved smoking restrictions to various degrees, the General Assembly has yet to pass a broad-based anti-smoking regulation despite numerous attempts.

This evening at 8 on Kentucky Tonight, Bill Goodman will explore this year’s legislative push for a statewide smoking ban. His guests will be Dr. Shawn Jones, past president of the Kentucky Medical Association and member of the Smoke-Free Kentucky coalition; Ken Moellman, spokesman for Northern Kentucky Choice; Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions; and Ashli Watts, manager of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and member of the Smoke-Free Kentucky coalition.

Here’s an overview of various efforts to restrict smoking in the state over the past quarter century. This list was compiled from a review of records from the Legislative Research Commission, documents compiled by the Kentucky Tobacco Policy Research Program at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, and the archives of the Lexington Herald-Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal.

1990
Jefferson County Representatives Tom Burch (D-Louisville) and Anne Northup (R-Louisville) file legislation to prohibit primary and secondary school students from smoking on school grounds and busses. House Bill 127 is assigned to the agricultural committee and Burch later claims that when he presents the legislation, every member of the panel lights cigarettes and smokes them (even those known not to smoke). The committee defeats the bill on a 10 – 3 vote.

1993
The Environmental Protection Agency classifies second-hand smoke as a carcinogen. A subsequent study the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes “environmental tobacco smoke is a significant occupational health hazard for food-service workers. To protect these workers, smoking in bars and restaurants should be prohibited.”

1994
Rep. Northup offers legislation to restrict the sale of cigarettes to minors through vending machines. Her proposal is attached to a Senate bill sponsored by Sen. David Boswell (D-Owensboro) (a former agriculture commissioner) that requires local or state government authorities that restrict smoking in their buildings to provide ventilated public smoking areas. The bill exempts state-run universities, jails, hospitals, and residential care facilities, and essentially guarantees that some form of smoking will continue in government buildings. The final version of SB 316 passes the House, 75-12, and the Senate, 28-7, and is signed into law by Gov. Brereton Jones.

1998
In October, the attorneys general of 46 states sign the Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard. The agreement allows states to recover tobacco-related healthcare costs, while prohibiting cigarette makers from targeting youth and restricting their advertising and promotional practices.

2003
Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville) sponsors a House Bill 88, which would prohibit smoking in university dormitories, residence halls, and other campus-sanctioned housing. The House defeats the measure, 49-45.

On July 1, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council enacts Kentucky’s first public smoking ban. The measure is the result of a two-year effort by a coalition of health advocates, and prohibits smoking in almost all enclosed public spaces. Following a legal challenge, the Kentucky Supreme Court upholds the ban, saying the council has the authority to issue the ban as a reasonable measure to protect public health, and, more importantly, that state law does not preclude local governments from enacting such prohibitions. The Lexington ban takes effect in April 2004.

2004
In response to Lexington’s smoke-free law and discussions in Louisville to develop a similar ordinance, Sen. Dan Seum (R-Fairdale) and Rep. J. R. Gray (D-Benton) file bills to restrict the authority of local governments or health departments to enact laws to ban smoking in private businesses. House Bill 66 and Senate Bill 10 die in committee, while SB 130 passes the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, but is later recommitted to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

In that same legislative session, Rep. Steve Nunn (R-Glasgow) sponsors a bill banning smoking in meeting rooms, shared offices, hallways, and stairwells of the state Capitol and Capitol Annex. Designated public smoking areas would have to have separate ventilation systems. House Bill 493 passes the House, 72-15, the Senate, 31-3, and is signed into law by Governor Ernie Fletcher.

In October, President George Bush signs the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act, which ends the tobacco quota program and establishes a system of 10 annual payments to compensate farmers, which became known as the “tobacco buy-out.”

2005
In June, Georgetown becomes the second Kentucky city to ban smoking in public places, including restaurants and businesses.

In August the Louisville Metro Council votes 21 – 5 in favor of a smoking ban in most public workplaces. The measure is the result of a two-year campaign by health advocates who are displeased because the ordinance exempts many restaurants and bars as well as Churchill Downs, and it allows businesses to have separate smoking rooms.

2006
Rep. Nunn sponsors a bill that grants authority to the executive branch, local governments, and universities to prohibit smoking in government-owned buildings in the Commonwealth. House Bill 55 passes the Senate, 31 – 3, the House, 91-7, and Gov. Fletcher signs it into law. Most state government buildings go smoke-free in August.

In June, Kentucky Commissioner of Public Health Dr. William Hacker states his support for a statewide smoking ban for public places. Gov. Fletcher says smoking restrictions should be left to local authorities.

Also that year, Daviess and Letcher Counties, as well as Frankfort, Morehead, and Ashland enact smoking restrictions. Louisville expands its smoke-free ordinance to include government buildings, restaurants and bars, but still allows an exemption for Churchill Downs. Restaurant and bar owners later sue, saying that exception is unfair.

2007
Hardin, Oldham, and Madison Counties, as well as Henderson, Elizabethtown, Paintsville, Paducah, and Pikeville enact smoke-free laws.

2008
Beattyville, Danville, and Woodford County pass smoking restrictions. Following a judge’s ruling, Louisville passes a new smoking ban that eliminates the previous Churchill Downs exemption. Lexington amends its existing ordinance to include all workplaces, public busses, bingo halls, and Bluegrass Airport.

2009
In an appearance on Kentucky Tonight, Sen. David Williams (R-Burkesville) says he favors a statewide smoking ban, with restrictions similar to those in Louisville’s and Lexington’s ban. Health advocates say its too soon for a statewide prohibition to garner the support needed to pass, while others fear such a bill would be badly written.

Also that year, Hopkins and Clark Counties, as well as London, Campbellsville, and Prestonsburg enact smoking restrictions. In November, the University of Kentucky becomes a smoke-free campus.

2010
Radcliffe, Bardstown, and Glasgow pass smoking restrictions. Campbell County Fiscal Court approves a ban, but new members to the body repeal the measure weeks later. The University of Louisville completes a year-long transition to become a smoke-free campus.

2011
Rep. Susan Westrom (D-Lexington) proposes legislation to prohibit smoking in enclosed public places or enclosed places of employment, and prohibit smoking within reasonable distances outside of those spaces. The legislation also sets out specific fines for violations. House Bill 193 dies in committee.

During his gubernatorial campaign, Sen. Williams reiterates his support for a statewide smoking ban.

Kenton County, Oak Grove, Bowling Green, and Corbin approve restrictions. Bullitt County Board of Health passes a ban in all public places, including bars and restaurants, but a lawsuit pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court stalls implementation. Morehead State University becomes smoke free.

2012
Rep. Westrom files a second attempt at a statewide ban, which is similar to her 2011 proposal to prohibit indoor smoking in businesses, places of employment, and other listed public spaces. But the new legislation eliminates language about smoking outside of public places, and allows for smoking in designated outdoor smoking areas. A floor amendment adds exemptions for private clubs, bars, agricultural buildings, and racetracks. The amendment also prohibits local governments and health departments from regulating premises exempt in the legislation. The House Health and Welfare Committee approves HB 289 on a 10 – 2 vote, but the measure is later recommitted to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

Franklin County, Manchester, and Somerset pass smoking restrictions.

2013
Rep. Westrom makes a third attempt at a smoking ban with House Bill 190, the Smoke-Free Kentucky Bill. At a rally in support of the legislation, Gov. Steve Beshear says it is time for Kentucky to institute the ban. “Years from now, people will wonder why we waited so long,” Beshear says. The bill is reported favorably from the health and welfare committee, but the floor recommits the legislation to the judiciary committee, where the proposal dies.

Hopkinsville, Williamsburg, Elkhorn City, and Mayfield approve smoking prohibitions. Regents at Northern Kentucky University and at Kentucky State University vote to make their campuses smoke free.

2014
In his State of the Commonwealth address, Gov. Beshear calls for a statewide smoking ban and a 10 percent reduction in Kentucky’s smoking rate in the next four years.

On January 8, almost 50 years to the day of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of smoking, Rep. Westrom files her fourth attempt at smoke-free legislation with House Bill 173. At a rally in the capitol rotunda in support of a statewide smoking ban, Sen. Julie Denton (R-Louisville) announces her intention to file a similar bill in the Senate.

The next week, while still waiting for the Kentucky Supreme Court to rule on the local health department’s 2011 ban, Bullitt County Fiscal Court restricts smoking in county-owned buildings

And in June, Eastern Kentucky University is scheduled to become a smoke-free campus.

Recapping Our Legislative Preview

Monday, January 6th, 2014

It was a wide-ranging and refreshingly cordial discussion with legislative leaders last night as we previewed the General Assembly session that starts today. You can watch the full program here.

The first bills to come out of the House and Senate illustrate the differences between the two chambers and the parties that control them. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) has proposed House Bill 1 that would raise the minimum wage in Kentucky from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour over the next three years. He said the issue is whether Kentucky workers are able to make a living wage and support their families rather than just a minimum wage. Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said HB-1 is unnecessary, noting that a 2007 bill included an automatic trigger to raise Kentucky’s minimum wage if the federal minimum is increased. Rep. Stumbo said he doesn’t want to wait for Washington politicians to make that decision.

Bill Goodman with Kentucky's legislative leaders on the Kentucky Tonight set.[Photo by Steve Shaffer/KET]

Kentucky’s legislative leaders on the Kentucky Tonight set. From left, Rep. Greg Stumbo, Sen. R. J. Palmer, KET host Bill Goodman, Sen. Robert Stivers, and Rep. Jeff Hoover.
[Photo by Steve Shaffer/KET]

In the other chamber, Senate Bill 1 proposes a constitutional amendment to limit a governor’s ability to enact administrative regulations. Sen. Stivers said this plan isn’t about how Gov. Steve Beshear handled implementation of the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid, but a more general desire to provide a “check and balance” to executive branch authority in the Commonwealth. The Democrats said they’re open to exploring the issue, but Senate Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer (D-Winchester) warned about trying to micro-manage the executive branch from the legislature.

Budget Priorities
As for setting a new state budget, House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) said legislators must first look at education and restore the money that’s been cut there in recent years. But Sen. Stivers countered that funding of the state pension obligation should be the top priority, saying it’s time to “fill in that hole that’s been dug over the past 20 to 25 years.” When a caller asked about funds for the state child care program, Rep. Stumbo said he hopes to be able to restore all or part of that money but isn’t certain where to find the dollars to do so.

Expanded Gambling
On the revenue side of the budget, the key point of discussion was expanded gambling. The panel agreed casino gaming could be enacted by statute, but many lawmakers prefer giving citizens the opportunity to vote on the issue. Rep. Stumbo said such a constitutional amendment should contain clear and simple language and not include a specific benefit to the horse industry, an idea that Rep. Hoover also supported. Sen. Stivers said he’s willing to let the legislative process play out, and if lawmakers want to bring a bill to the floor to expand gambling, he would not prevent that from happening – a significant change in position from his predecessor, former State Senate President (now Circuit Judge) David Williams.

Next up is Gov. Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth address, tonight at 7. You can watch live coverage of the speech on KET and online at KET.org/live.


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