Local Government and Smoking Ban and City-County Council and Legislation and Smokefree workplaces and Government & Economic Development and Workplace Issues

Smoking ban bill sent back to committee

November 30, 2009

The fate of a proposal that would impose a stricter workplace smoking ban in Indianapolis remains up in the air after the City-County Council voted Monday night to send the bill back to committee for further review.

Republican Ben Hunter, one of the bill’s sponsors, requested the delay in order to have more time to discuss its merits.

“Not every councilor has been looking at this extensively,” Hunter said. “All option have not been exhausted.”

The bill would prohibit patrons from lighting up in bars, bowling alleys and nightclubs, broadening an existing law that prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants that serve minors.

A council committee voted 4-2 to endorse the ban in mid-October, advancing it to the full membership for consideration. Council members tabled the issue in Oct. 26 when it fell short of the 15 votes needed to either pass or fail.

At their Monday meeting, councilors voted 20-7 to return the legislation to committee. Hunter said the bill likely will be reintroduced in February or March.

Ed Coleman, a Libertarian and vocal opponent of the proposed ordinance, said delaying the decision only frustrates constituents. Coleman said he had 770 signatures from citizens opposing the legislation.

“This is our third meeting to discuss this bill,” Coleman said. “Let’s get it over with.”

Hunter said before the meeting that he wanted to delay final vote on the measure in hopes of persuading more councilors to support the bill. However, the absence of co-sponsor Angela Mansfield, who was hospitalized Monday, gave members another reason to wait.

“We have always granted that honor to postpone the vote if the sponsor could not attend,” Democrat Monroe Gray said.

The controversial bill drew a crowd to the council meeting. Save Indianapolis Bars, a group that opposes the bill, brought a vocal majority wearing red shirts. The advocacy group Smoke Free Indy identified many supporters of the bill with green shirts. Spectators provided applause and boos during discussion of the bill.

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