INDIANAPOLIS | State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, vowed to try again next year after an Indiana Senate committee voted 8-1 on Wednesday to reject his proposed statewide indoor smoking ban.
House Bill 1018, as approved by the House 68-31 in January, would have prohibited smoking in all indoor public places with exemptions for bars, casinos, private clubs, tobacco shops and nursing homes.
But senators on the Public Policy Committee weren't happy with those exemptions. Some favored a comprehensive smoking ban with no exemptions, while others said state government shouldn't be dictating whether businesses can allow smoking.
"If you can get a better bill than this, I certainly would support it. But until such time I cannot; I vote no," said state Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte.
Committee opposition to the smoking ban included Republicans and Democrats, with only state Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, voting yes. Lanane, who supports a total indoor smoking ban, said the legislation should advance to the full Senate for a vote.
The committee defeat essentially kills the smoking ban for the year unless Brown can persuade a House-Senate conference committee to add the smoking ban to other legislation. Brown was pessimistic about that happening.
Speaking after the vote, the Gary representative blamed the American Cancer Society for lobbying lawmakers to hold out for a future comprehensive smoking ban and vote against a ban with exemptions.
"It is beyond the pale to me how these advocates feel they're doing anybody any good by not understanding that there's got to be compromise," Brown said. "It's all about give and take."
But Amanda Estridge, of the American Cancer Society, said she'd rather have nothing than see a law enacted that doesn't protect all Hoosiers.
"If this would have passed and gone to the governor's desk, Indiana would have passed one of the weakest laws in the nation, and that's not acceptable," Estridge said. "We can do better than that."
State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, the committee chairman, said the only way a smoking ban ever will get Senate approval is with exemptions, and Brown's legislation as is would have protected most Hoosiers from dangerous secondhand smoke in most places they go.