Feb 26, 2013 8:57 PM
FRANKFORT. (AP) - Legislation that would institute a statewide smoking ban in restaurants and other public places has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee for further review on Tuesday, making it unlikely it can pass in this legislative session.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he doesn't expect the measure to make it back to the full House in the 10 working days that remain before the Legislature adjourns.
The bill has proven divisive in Kentucky, one of the nation's top tobacco-producing states.
Gov. Steve Beshear pressed for the smoking ban during his annual State of the Commonwealth speech earlier this month, saying the 25 percent of Kentuckians who smoke could still light up if the measure passes, just not in places where they would expose others to their smoke. Instead of appeasing opponents, that fired them up.
State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, said she won't be willing to declare the bill dead until the legislature adjourns, but she acknowledged that as of Tuesday it didn't have enough votes in the House to pass.
The House Health and Welfare Committee approved the measure in early February.
"We were making progress every day," she said. "I think we're close. I just want to make sure when we do have a floor vote that I can get it over the edge."
Westrom has sponsored similar proposals in the past two legislative sessions with the same result, to the glee of opponents.
"We don't need the government telling business owners what they can allow on their own property," said David Adams, a tea party activist who opposed the measure. "It's a nanny state tactic that big government people are getting worked up about. They need to go sit in their little box and leave us alone."
Beshear said three dozen cities and counties in Kentucky already have smoking bans. That includes large cities like Lexington and Louisville as well as small towns like Beattyville and Manchester.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson has said the state's business community supports the measure because smoking is leading to lost productivity and higher health insurance premiums for businesses.
Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, said he considers it only a matter of time until the Legislature institutes a statewide smoking ban.
"Hopefully, they'll get it teed up for next time," he said. "We're going to continue exposing people to secondhand smoke until we do it."
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
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