No-smoking bill delayed again

Published 7:05 pm Saturday, April 4, 2009

A state anti-smoking bill that some have been trying to vote through the Alabama Legislature for nearly 11 years seems to have been stalled again.

State Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) pulled the bill from Senate consideration Thursday after what she said were attempts to “gut the bill.” Figures was upset with amendments that were being added to the bill that led to multiple exemptions to the proposed anti-smoking legislation.

“Sen. Figures felt it was better to pull the bill for right now and regroup,” State Sen. Hank Erwin said. Erwin is a co-sponsor of the bill and has been a strong supporter of the legislation that would have prohibited smoking from all public places in the state.

“I am not sure what her plans are at this point, but she felt the amendments that were being added were gutting the bill,” Erwin said.

Figures’ bill would have restricted smoking in most public places, including bars, restaurants, retail businesses and public transportation. But, according to an Associated Press report late Thursday, the Senate had amended the bill to allow smoking in bars, the bar sections of restaurants, dog tracks and gambling halls.

“We had bar owners, casino owners and the like asking to allow their clientele to continue smoking, and when you start making exemptions for one group and another, you start to weaken the bill,” Erwin said.

Though more than half of the Legislature’s regular session is over, Erwin said Figures does have time to bring the bill back before the Senate.

“Sen. Figures has enough sway in the Senate to get it back,” Erwin said. “But, at this point I don’t know what she wants to do.”

After the amendments were added, Figures requested the Senate “carry over the bill,” which would allow her to try again later.

Regardless of the lack of success thus far in getting the bill passed, Erwin said he is still a strong supporter of the measure as are a majority of Alabamians.

“The people support this measure,” Erwin said. “My goal is to help Sen. Figures in getting this measure passed in one form or another.”