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Lawmakers Working To Find Compromise On Smoking Ban Bill

Last updated on Tuesday, March 6, 2012

(INDIANAPOLIS) - With adjournment looming later this week, state lawmakers are working to find a compromise that will salvage the smoking ban bill.

As the smoking bill has made its way through the House and Senate, lawmakers have loaded it up with exemptions to allow continued smoking in every place from bars and casinos to nursing homes and mental health facilities.

That has annoyed sponsors, who said they are trying to protect the health of both customers and employees.

"How can you value one worker's health over another?" asked Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero. "We have to think about that. You know, every time we put an exemption in, we are valuing one Hoosier worker's health over another."

But sponsors know that without those exemptions, the bill won't pass.

An attempt was made in the Senate to remove all the exemptions except the casinos.

"We did kind of offer an all-or-nothing with exemptions of casinos only, and it got murdered on the Senate floor," said Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette.

Casinos get an exemption because they produce so much tax revenue and thus have a lot of clout at the Statehouse, leaving bar owners clamoring for an exemption to keep the playing field level with the casinos.

"It's not about trying to put someone out of business," said Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary. "I think those that are adamantly opposed to the smoking ban know that it will not do harm to their business."

Opponents say banning smoking infringes on business owners' rights. But others argue that's backwards.

"It is about individual rights," said Minority Leader Sen. Vi Simpson. "But it's primarily the rights of non-smokers whose rights are being infringed upon, primarily rights of workers."

Negotiators won't offer a timetable for reaching a compromise, but they don't have long since legislative leaders have announced they are going to try to adjourn for the year Friday night.

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