The Iowa House voted this morning to exempt bars and restaurants that hold state liquor licenses from the controversial bill banning smoking in public places statewide. An amendment wedging those exemptions into the ban bill was approved 51-44. The House then sent the bill back to the Senate.
Essentially, under the new version of the ban, if you serve drinks, you can allow smoking at designated times, likely at night, when only patrons 21 and older are admitted. So no puffing around the kids. Along with bars and eateries, smokers would be allowed to light up under those rules on casino gaming floors, in clubs and in bars at hotels or motels.
Smoking would still be banned in scores of other public venues, but a bar exemption drives a Mack truck-sized hole in a bill that left the Senate banning smoking in darn near every nook and cranny of the state.
Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, who supports a full-blown ban, pleaded with his colleagues to resist undoing the “historic” vote the House took three weeks ago banning smoking everywhere except casinos and veterans’ clubs.
But the winning side portrayed the change as a victory for “property rights” and “individual rights” to allow bars and restaurants to chart their own path on smoking.
I have no idea what happens now in the Senate, but you’d think some critics of the original bill might take this watered-down version. Who knows? This issue has become almost unpredictable. I think a House-Senate conference committee will eventually have to sort the whole mess out.
Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson has the story right here.