A new feature appeared on the grounds between the Legislature and Capitol this week: a 10-by-10-foot glass-walled enclosure. Complete with blue-steel roof, it looks like a bus stop.
According to Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, it's his answer to the long-standing conflict between smokers and nonsmokers.
"I have memos to staff going back 15 years, talking about what to do with smoking areas," he said. "It comes up every year."
Malkiewich said the number of smokers has continued to shrink over the years, but there are still a few staff members, lawmakers and lobbyists who haven't given up the habit.
Making the Legislature smoke-free comes at a surprising cost. The structure cost $11,900, and by the time ventilation and heating for the winter are added, Malkiewich said the total cost will be about $15,000.
Last session, the only remaining smoking area was at the loading dock area on the building's south side. But allowing smoking anywhere in the building, he said, lets cigarette smoke into the ventilation system.
"There are people who are very sensitive to smoke, and if you have that sensitivity, it's going to be a problem," he said.
The answer: "We're not going to have smoking in the building anymore."
However, Malkiewich said he didn't want to just increase the number of people lighting up outside the entrances to the building. That's why the decision was made to put up the enclosure 30 feet north of the Legislature.
"It at least gives people a place to go so that the rights of both smokers and nonsmokers are observed and nonsmokers don't have to walk through a wall of smoke to get out the door," he said.