A House-Senate conference committee was expected to meet this week to work out a compromise on a statewide smoking ban, but the meeting has been postponed again. The debate has already stretched for an entire year.
Tuesday’s meeting was originally scheduled for April 1. It was postponed when some members of the committee said they needed more time to draft amendments to the legislation. The committee was formed because the House and Senate passed different versions of the smoking ban last year.
Supporters of the statewide ban visited the State Capitol on Monday and urged lawmakers to get to work on the legislation. “You’re the last state in the northeast to adopt comprehensive smoke-free legislation that protects its workers,” said Kevin O’Flaherty of Tobacco Free Kids.
State Representative Ron Miller is on the conference committee and said the bill will not ban smoking in all public places. Smoking may be allowed in casinos, small taverns, and perhaps private clubs such as American Legion and VFW posts. “The question is, what can we get that will pass the Pennsylvania state Legislature? It doesn’t matter what other states have done,” Miller said. “Are we better off getting something that is a start, or do we allow it to die altogether?”
Supporters pointed to polls that suggest 84 percent of Pennsylvanians favor a ban. “We can’t take any exemptions at all. No compromise,” said Jason Moffitt of the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania. “If we compromise, we compromise the lives of Pennsylvanians.”
State Senator Stewart Greenleaf wrote the original bill. He said lobbyists from casinos, taverns, and big tobacco are trying to slow it down and water it down. But Miller said if the legislation could be defeated if those favoring a total ban don’t give a little. “The bill’s going to die and we’ll have to take it up again and we’ll have to fight that battle again,” he said.
There is no word on when the House-Senate Conference Committee will reschedule the meeting. A statement sent to news media said it will happen “in the very near future.”