Smoking bill still alive in new form | NevadaAppeal.com

Smoking bill still alive in new form

CATHY BUSSEWITZ
Associated Press Writer

A last-minute maneuver to revive part of an indoor smoking bill continued on Monday, the final day of the 2009 Nevada legislature.

The plan, to roll back a voter-approved smoking ban only at tobacco trade conventions, was suggested as an amendment to AB309, which deals with the crime of stalking, earlier this week.

“I’ve never had a bill that was a battle ground before, at least not this late in the session,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto, D-Las Vegas, sponsor of AB309. “I brought that bill because of a woman in my district who was killed by a stalker. The stalking bill is so important.”

Koivisto said some AB309 sponsors in the Assembly wanted their names off the bill if the smoking provisions remained, and warned that the bill would lose their votes if the provisions were not removed.

But others in the Senate warned Koivisto that the bill wouldn’t pass out of that house unless the tobacco convention language was added back in. Koivisto said the bill was being redrafted to include the tobacco convention language.

“My stance is that I want this bill to pass, and what I’m told is that it won’t pass in the Senate without it,” Koivisto said.

The original bill, SB372, would have softened the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, passed by voters in 2006, by fine-tuning just where smoking should be prohibited.

Lobbyists wanted to allow smoking in bars that serve food as long as minors are restricted from entry, but the bill died in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

The section of the bill that was revived would allow smoking at tobacco conventions.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority sought the change because some groups with tobacco industry ties canceled Nevada conventions after the ban took effect.

“My client wants to come back to Las Vegas,” said Trevor Hayes, lobbyist for the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers. “Between them and the Tobacco Plus Expo, they’ve brought in $41 million over the last four years.”

Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, who chairs a conference committee assigned to resolve differences on AB309, said she thought the tobacco convention language was gone.

“It might just all vanish,” Parnell said, adding that the latest conference committee report had removed the tobacco convention language from the bill.

The first attempt to add the smoking provision onto the stalking bill was blocked because legal counsel said the smoking issue was not germane to the bill’s purpose. But late Saturday, legislative lawyers revised their opinion and said the amendment could work because both the bill and amendment deal with crimes.

Michael Hackett, who worked on the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, was concerned that a change to the laws could happen within a three-year “hands-off” period following the law change.

“The precedent this is going to set is that the initiative process is going to be blown out of the water,” Hackett said.

Earlier in the week, there was attempt to attach the failed measure to AB229, a bill dealing with fire-safe cigarettes. But the bill sponsor, Assemblyman John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said he told other lawmakers that wouldn’t be a friendly amendment to his bill.

“I’ve done a lot in five sessions, but this is one of the quirkiest I’ve been involved in,” Parnell added.