Legislators: Smoke ’em if you got ’emMADISON — Barring a last-minute breakthrough, a proposal for a statewide smoking ban is about to be snuffed out in the Legislature.
By: By SCOTT BAUER/Associated Press Writer, The Daily Telegram
MADISON — Barring a last-minute breakthrough, a proposal for a statewide smoking ban is about to be snuffed out in the Legislature.
The Assembly planned to finish its work for the year today and the smoking ban was not up for a vote. The Senate has likewise not taken a vote on the ban, which must pass both chambers and be signed by the governor before it becomes law. The Senate finishes its work on Thursday.
Supporters vowed to try again next year.
“We’re not giving up,” said Rep. Steve Wieckert, R-Appleton. “We’re in for the long haul.”
Gov. Jim Doyle has been advocating for the ban for months, but it met with staunch opposition from the powerful Tavern League lobby. It opposed having the ban start in bars at the same time as in restaurants and other work places.
No new talks with the ban’s opponents were planned for today, said Maureen Busalacchi, executive director of Smoke Free Wisconsin. But she still hadn’t given up hope, despite the long odds.
“Until they all go home, we’re not going to take the pressure off,” she said.
Busalacchi, along with the American Cancer Society and others, attempted for months to broker a compromise with opponents.
The Tavern League suggested having the ban to start in January for all businesses but bars, where it would start on July 1, 2011. Supporters, including Doyle, balked and argued that the ban should start everywhere at the same time.
Wieckert blamed the Tavern League for killing the measure that he said had broad public support.
“One special interest group can do in the will of the state,” Wieckert said. “That’s sad. But I’m a firm believer in democracy. In the end, we will win.”
Pete Madland, the Tavern League’s chief executive officer, said his group’s position was supported by many people across the state as well.
“I think legislators understand this is not just about employee health,” he said. “This is about people’s jobs, people’s businesses, people’s livelihood, and it’s not to be taken too lightly.”
The Tavern League had argued that a statewide smoking ban would hurt bar owners, especially those with smaller operations. Madland vowed to oppose the ban as long as his group’s members do.
Backers attempted to spur the Legislature to action last week by bringing in Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. But even Armstrong’s appearances in Madison and suburban Milwaukee didn’t move the opposition.
Doyle has argued that Wisconsin needs a ban because neighboring Illinois and Minnesota recently enacted one.
Twenty-three states have banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Four more states prohibit smoking in restaurants but exempt stand-alone bars.