Smoking ban sent to special

Dylan Boyle

A proposed smoking ban that could have sweeping results across the state has been amended and given an extended timetable.

The Iowa General Assembly sent the smoking ban bill into a special 10-member conference committee last Wednesday to settle the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.

Staci Appel, a Democratic state senator from Ackworth, who floor-managed the bill in the Senate, will head the conference committee.

“This week is a busy week because it’s funnel week – so we will probably meet the week after. Until we get in and start working, I couldn’t say how long this will take,” Appel said.

Since only one meeting has been held so far, it is hard to tell if the conference committee will consider the House version with its many exemptions or the stricter Senate version.

“The House amended the bill so that every establishment can allow smoking as long as they only allow people older than 21 in,” Appel said.

Other exceptions, such as allowing people to smoke after 8 p.m., were also added to the House version – which Appel said is a bad idea.

“It takes two weeks for smoke to dissipate in the air, so if a restaurant serves breakfast, children could be potentially exposed to the secondhand smoke,” Appel said.

Chuck Soderberg, a House Republican from Le Mars, said he wants “fair and equitable exemptions” if there are going to be any.

“It’s not fair to small businesses to let casinos choose whether or not they want to be smoke-free,” Soderberg said.

Soderberg said it is hard to say if the bill will pass because he won’t know others’ intentions until the committee meets.

Although there is a chance the bill could die in committee and not pass this year, Appel and Soderberg both agreed there is a good chance for compromise and expect the Senate and House to vote on the conference committee’s bill upon its departure.