Councilwoman Diane Evans last night introduced her own version of an anti-smoking bill that exempts restaurants, hotels and other private businesses from any legal restrictions.
Ms. Evans, an Arnold Republican, told the County Council that her bill narrows the scope of Councilwoman Maureen Lamb's proposed anti-smoking measure that would limit smoking in almost all public places to designated areas.
Ms. Evans' bill has three co-sponsors -- council members George Bachman, Carl Holland and David G. Boschert -- giving her the votes needed to pass it.
She said her bill differs from Ms. Lamb's in that it would allow businesses to decide what smoking restrictions they will impose. Ms. Lamb's bill states that in restaurants, hotels and private businesses with 10 or more employees, smoking would be permitted in designated areas.
Ms. Evans' bill states that where smoking would be restricted, such as banks, classrooms and lecture halls -- it would be completely.
"We have enough respect for the business community and the fact that they will make the right decision," Ms. Evans said.
Her bill, which will come up for a public hearing March 15, also codifies County Executive Robert R. Neall's ban on smoking in county offices. Ms. Lamb's bill will come up for a vote at the same meeting.
Ms. Evans said that before Ms. Lamb introduced her bill, she tried to persuade her to narrow its scope and to exclude private businesses. "What she said, and I quote her, 'I don't care if my bill passes,' " Ms. Evans said.
"What she's saying is, it's her bill or there's not going to be any bill," she said. "She has postured on this issue. Well, I care enough about this issue that I am not going to posture on this bill. I want to work with the council on something that is reasonable and possible."
Ms. Lamb countered that Ms. Evans approached her about submitting a bill that only banned smoking in county buildings.
"What [Ms. Evans] didn't want was a smoking bill she couldn't support, and she didn't want a bill that bothered business," Ms. Lamb said. "I wasn't posturing. I just happened to believe in it."
In other action, the council heard testimony from two stalking victims who urged passage of Councilman Edward Middlebrooks' bill that would stiffen penalties for such crimes.
"I don't feel safe anymore," said a woman, a stalking victim who did not want her name publicized. "This man has mentally raped me, but legally he has done nothing wrong, I'm told."
The bill, which will be voted on at the March 15 meeting, would make the crime a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
The council also approved Mr. Neall's reorganization bill that will lead to the layoff of more than 100 employees.