Smoking ban exemption list grows longer as Senate debates bill

The Indiana Senate is making a lot of changes to the statewide smoking ban bill sent to them by the House.

Indianapolis

The Indiana Senate is making a lot of changes to the statewide smoking ban bill sent to them by the House.

Members of the Senate debated 29 different amendments Tuesday. Amendments critics said render the bill virtually useless.

The House version bans smoking in public places except for gaming facilities, tobacco shops, private clubs whose members approve of smoking, and cigar and hookah bars. But that list was growing longer by the minute in the Senate Tuesday.

Less than two hours into the debate over amendments to HB 1149, Senators had passed exemptions for bars, group homes, gaming facilities, healthcare facilities, mental health facilities, private clubs with members under 18 and in-home work places. Those in-home work places could include a variety of businesses which are run out of someone's home.

One amendment that didn't pass would have exempted outdoor areas on privately owned property. Senator David Long argued against that one, saying it could amount to restaurants allowing smoking on outdoor patios.

Several other amendments would have drastically changed state law. One would ban the use of cigarettes completely. Another would allow cigarettes to be sold only between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weekends. Proposals like that raised frustration among those trying to get the ban passed.

"It's a matter of poking fun at the whole concept of having smoke-free air," said Representative Charlie Brown, D-Gary, who has been pushing for the ban for more than five years.

Brown remained hopeful the ban will pass, but was not encouraged when he saw the list of 29 amendments.

"Some of them are humorous, some are ridiculous, and most of them are not sincere," Brown said.

As the amendments kept coming and the debate kept going, Fort Wayne Republican Senator Tom Wyss said he would vote for whatever the final version was. He remained doubtful that it would ultimately become law, though.

"Even if it gets out of here, it'll go over (to the House) and they'll try to do something in conference committee," Wyss said. "I just don't see anything coming out this year at all."

Other Senators pulled no punches in describing the situation. During debate, Senator Vi Simpson took to Twitter: "This #smokingban debate is becoming a farce. More properties exempted than covered."
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