Politics

As an anti-smoking rally descended on the Capitol rotunda on Wednesday, a bill that would ban smoking in public places across Kentucky is still waiting to be heard on the state House floor.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, said bill writers are considering amendments to the bill to bring more members on board. One amendment would exempt facilities such as hookah bars.

“The concern is that what happens if you have a community that’s passed a smoking ban that’s exempted certain facilities,” Stumbo said. “Do you want to grandfather them in? If you grandfather them in then it picks up several votes.”

Last year the bill made it to the House floor but didn’t get a vote.

The bill has gained several supporters including Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen, as well as Senate Republicans Julie Raque Adams of Louisville and Ralph Alvarado of Winchester.

Amy Barkley is the chair of Smoke-Free Kentucky, a group that advocates for the bill. She said local anti-smoking policy have paved the way for a statewide ban.

“We were content with the local effort, but now about 15 years has passed since the first efforts began we think there’s no reason to wait, no reason for anybody in this state to have to deal with second-hand smoke in the workplace,” Barkley said.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, was cool on the idea. He said it’s a slippery slope when government starts dictating habits.

“I don’t believe it is in the place of government to intervene and tell businesses that they can’t allow smoking in a poolroom or a bar or a restaurant, although personally I wouldn’t patronize them because I don’t like smoking,” Stivers said.

According to Smoke-Free Kentucky, 32.5 percent of Kentuckians live in areas that have passed smoking bans. Local smoking bans have passed in 24 cities in Kentucky.

The bill was recently approved in committee. Stumbo indicated that the bill might be debated on the House floor on Thursday.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.