Thursday, March 6, 2014

Statewide smoking ban dead for this year, as House Democrats worry about political ramifications in fall elections

The sponsor of a bill for a statewide ban on smoking in enclosed public places said it is dead for this year, Tom Loftus reports for The Courier-Journal.

"It's dead," Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, told Loftus. "I've been told that there aren't enough votes and we're just going to have to wait until next year. That came from the governor's office."

Westrom said that after she met last week with Gov. Steve Beshear, who supports a ban, he called House members to get more votes for the bill, but "now the governor is saying that it might be risky for some people if they had to vote on it."

Last week, Westrom said House Speaker Greg Stumbo and other leaders of the House's tenuous Democratic majority were not calling the bill for a floor vote because some members who had told her they would vote for it had told the leaders that they didn't want a vote for fear of political repercussions. Control of the House is up for grabs in this fall's elections.

Stumbo denied that, saying he still supported House Bill 173, but acknowledged, "Others in leadership have problems." But when the bill died, he told The Courier-Journal, "A lot of members that we spoke with — both Democrats and Republicans — didn’t really want to address the issue in an election year. . . . A lot of our members, most of whom live in rural areas, were intimidated by it."

Westrom told Ryan Alessi of cn|2's "Pure Politics" that Beshear told her that Republican votes were contingent on GOP representatives seeing that Democrats were taking the lead to pass the bill as the House voted. “Nobody seemed comfortable with how many Democratic votes would light up the board which would entice the Republicans,” Westrom said.

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