INDIANAPOLIS | State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, stood in the back of the Indiana Senate chamber for three hours Tuesday and watched helplessly as the Republican-controlled chamber shredded his proposed indoor smoking ban.
"I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't seen it for myself," Brown said.
The Senate changed House Bill 1149 on a series of unrecorded voice votes to exempt all bars and taverns from the smoking ban. Charity gaming sites, nursing homes, veterans homes, retirement centers, group homes and mental health facilities also were exempted.
That's in addition to exemptions for casinos, cigar and hookah bars, private clubs with the consent of members, tobacco shops and cigar manufacturers that already were included in the proposal.
The Senate also voted to prohibit local governments from enacting more stringent smoking bans that would apply to casinos or ban smoking inside a residence used for a home-based business.
It eliminated a House-approved provision that would have stopped children younger than 18 from entering fraternal, social or veterans clubs that allow smoking.
Senators rejected proposed amendments to permit smoking inside any manufacturing facility and at all outdoor patio tables at restaurants, though agreed to allow smoking at tables more than 8 feet from a restaurant's door.
Tuesday was the first time the full Senate considered amendments to smoking ban legislation, which has been approved by the House on five prior occasions but never advanced out of a Senate committee.
Brown said the senators who made changes to the legislation are not serious about enacting a smoking ban, even though most Hoosiers want one.
"The majority of those amendments are intended to kill the bill," Brown said.
The legislation is eligible for a final vote as soon as Wednesday. Brown said he wants the Senate to pass the legislation, even with the new exemptions, so they can be removed in a House-Senate conference committee.
Brown said he expects the two representatives and two senators appointed to a joint committee to decide the final language of the legislation will support a limited smoking ban with few exemptions, similar to the proposal approved by the House in January.
The House and Senate must approve the compromise proposal crafted by the conference committee before the smoking ban can go to the governor.