Lawmakers try to hash out smoking ban

Dylan Boyle

The Iowa House has passed two smoking bans this year, but the Iowa Senate thought neither bill was strict enough. Now, a conference committee comprising five senators and five representatives is trying to negotiate a bill both houses can agree on before the legislative session ends in three weeks.

In February, the House passed a version that would have outlawed smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants but exempting casinos and veterans’ homes. The Senate rejected the House plan, passing an amended bill with no exemptions.

The House then passed a bill even more lenient than its first; the new House bill would exempt any private establishment as long as all of its patrons are 21 or older. The Senate debated the second bill and decided to form the conference committee to negotiate a joint bill.

So far, the conference committee has met once, and although a second meeting has not been announced, the committee is expected to settle the major differences between the bills before the legislative session ends.

Press Secretary Courtney Greene said Gov. Chet Culver plans to sign the smoking ban bill if it reaches his desk but doesn’t care which version is passed.

“He’ll look at whatever the Legislature gives him,” Greene said. “[The smoking ban] wasn’t in his Condition of the State address, so he really doesn’t have a preference on the version passed.”

Tim Gleason, manager of Papa’s Corner, 2430 Lincoln Way, said even though he is not a smoker, he hopes the bill doesn’t pass.

“The government shouldn’t have a say in regulating a private business. The public should vote by either going or not going to bars that allow smoking.”

Gleason said Papa’s Corner, which allows smoking after 9 p.m., when only patrons 21 and older can enter, participated in this year’s Kick Butts Day on April 2 by not allowing smoking for the entire night. As the night came to a close, Gleason said he didn’t really notice a difference in business.

“I didn’t see a difference, positive or negative, in business, but it’s hard to judge because it depends on the night and what band is playing,” he said.

Michael Miller, freshman in liberal arts and sciences-open option, said he would like to see legislation banning smoking but agrees with the House version.

“I don’t agree with smoking personally, but people have the right to smoke, and if you ban it everywhere, people can’t go out and smoke socially,” Miller said.