A majority of state representatives is supporting legislation to allow smoking in outdoor areas of bars and restaurants, but a House leader says efforts to alter Iowa’s smoking ban still have little chance to pass this year.
Smoking would be allowed in outdoor seating and serving areas of bars and restaurants under House File 211. Currently, those areas are almost entirely restricted.
Rep. McKinley Bailey, D-Webster City, who is leading the effort, said many lawmakers did not intend for the outdoor areas to have smoking prohibitions and that the health department overstepped its authority in the rule-making process.
But a health official noted the law specifically says smoking is prohibited in “outdoor seating or serving areas of restaurants.”
“That is the law. Even if we wanted to change it some way, we couldn’t,” said Bonnie Mapes of the state’s health department.
Twenty-three Democrats and 28 Republicans have signed onto the bill. The supporters include Speaker Pro Tem Polly Bukta, D-Clinton, and Assistant Minority Leader Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton.
Democratic leaders have said it is unlikely that changes would be made to last year’s smoking ban. The ban was narrowly passed last year and reopening debate could cause the ban to be reversed, they have said.
“We’re basically trying to fix what we believe the Department of Public Health messed up in the rules process last year,” Bailey said.
House File 211 also allows smoking in theatrical productions. The bill has not yet passed a subcommittee.
So far this year, at least four other smoking bills have been introduced, some that would add additional smoking restrictions, such as Senate File 57, that would ban smoking in gambling areas of casinos. Seventeen senators have signed their names as sponsors of that bill.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, said majority leaders in both the House and the Senate have discussed the smoking issue and agree that they have no plans to debate any of the bills this year.
“I still think it’s highly unlikely we would take up a bill that would not go anywhere in the Senate,” Murphy said. “We’re focusing on balancing the budget, dealing with disaster priorities, working with the federal government on a stimulus package and what we can do to create jobs to offset what’s going on in the economy.”
NOW..go back to the previously boldly highlighted statements. Is it just me, or does the health department's spokesperson not make any sense. Its a law and we cant change it? Wasn't it NOT a law before, but our lawMAKERS changed the game by making a law? Haven't many laws been changed, ammended, or overridden by new laws multiple times in our history?? Isn't that how they change things?