Gov. Mitch Daniels signed Indiana's first statewide smoking restrictions into law Monday, saying while everyone might not have been happy with the bill, it was best to get something approved while lawmakers had the "energy" to handle the issue.
The smoking ban proposal narrowly cleared the state Senate this month after compromises expanding the number of exemptions were added to the bill over the objections of health advocates. Daniels signed it and other legislation during a ceremony at his Statehouse office.
The ban that takes effect in July will still give people plenty of places to light up as it exempts Indiana's bars, casinos, retail tobacco shops and private clubs, such as veterans and fraternal organizations.
"I never thought this was as quite an absolute subject as some thought it," Daniels said shortly before signing the measure.
After lawmakers removed bars and taverns from the ban, the American Cancer Society and other public health groups that had been lobbying in favor of the measure turned against it.
But Rep. Eric Turner, a Cicero Republican who co-wrote the legislation, said even with the exemptions, the measure is still strong.
"I like to be focused on the thousands of locations in Indiana on July 1st that will be smoke-free," Turner said. "Of course we had to have some exemptions to get it passed. The public will dictate to us when the timing is right."
Also Monday, Daniels approved new fines for violations of Indiana's open meetings laws, new regulations on nepotism in local government and a reduction in the number of boards and commissions in the state.
Public officials will now face court fines if they violate the state's open meetings laws. Daniels called it a victory for open government supporters.
One of the biggest remaining questions from the 2012 session is whether the Republican governor will veto a measure passed by the Legislature that would allow homeowners to use force against police officers entering their homes. Daniels spent Monday talking with opponents and supporters of the bill and said he still hasn't decided what to do.
"It's a close call, I'm trying to put the time into it to at least make a well-informed decision," he said.