Smoking ban’s fate need not be cloudy

One of the biggest disappointments with the Michigan Legislature these last two years is its failure to pass a statewide public smoking ban. The Democratic-led House tried and failed again last week. This means there will not be a law by Election Day, but we can hope lawmakers get their act together on this important issue before the year ends.

The frustrating part so far — and a reason for some optimism — is that both the state Senate and House have approved limits on smoking in public.

They do not agree, however, on just how far to go with their sound intentions.

The Senate’s version is comprehensive: no smoking at any public places. The House has carved out exceptions for casinos, bingo halls, cigar bars and horse-racing tracks. Until the two chambers approve identical language, nothing moves to Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s desk. Too bad: The governor says she will sign any smoking ban at this point, no matter what it says.

This political stalemate is the most recent, and maybe defining, example of partisan gridlock in the Legislature this session. Democrats hold the majority in the House, while Republicans lead the Senate. No wonder that budgets and much-needed reforms often have moved slowly, behind schedule or not at all.

Still, as in the case of the smoking ban, lawmakers have to deal with the cards they have been dealt. Republicans in the Senate are not budging from their comprehensive smoking ban, so Democrats in the House should get on board and do the same.

There is no genuine need to exempt casinos and a few others when there is a real chance to get a law on the books. This state’s residents agree with the concept, appreciating the threat from smoking to public health. Michigan, too, would join dozens of other states and cities that already force smokers to put out their cigarettes in public.

Lawmakers are turning their focus to the campaign trail for the next five weeks. When they return to work, they should make a smoking ban their top priority.

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5 Responses to “Smoking ban’s fate need not be cloudy”

  1. Top priority???? What is WRONG with you people?

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