(STATEHOUSE) - A statewide smoking ban may not be dead for the year, despite a nearly-unanimous vote against it last week in a senate committee.
Representative Charlie Brown, the ban's author, says he's eying a couple of bills into which the smoking ban could be amended in the final days of the session, while trying to work out a deal on the tavern exemption that prompted the American Cancer Society to pull its support.
Brown says he's "disheartened" at the Cancer Society's insistence on either a comprehensive bill or nothing.
At least one former State Representative has worked with ban supporters on their lobbying campaign, but brown says the refusal to accept partial progress toward the goal of a complete ban suggests a lack of understanding of the legislative process.
Brown says he's looking for a way to ease bar owners' concerns that a less-controversial exemption for private clubs would steer their clientele out of their taverns and into the clubs.
15 of the 39 states with statewide smoking bans exempt bars.
Brown acknowledges it's hard to tell whether a ban has the votes with or without the exemption.
Senate Public Policy Chairman Ron Alting, whose committee voted down the bill 8-1 last week, says he doesn't believe the ban can pass without it.
But many representatives who voted to add the exemption may have been more interested in adding a poison pill to the legislation than protecting bars.
All 31 representatives who voted against the ban in the house supported the amendment exempting taverns.
25 representatives supported both the exemption and the final bill.
It's unclear whether they would still support the bill without the exemption.
At least eight of them, and possibly as many as 18, would have to support a comprehensive ban to get it through.
Meanwhile, at least two senators took the opposite tack in committee, saying they can't support the bill unless the exemption is removed.
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