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House seeks to ban smoking in stand-alone bars

A committee advances a bill that would limit smoking to outdoor seating areas. A Senate bill offers more exemptions.

By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 19, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- Moving even further away from their colleagues in the Senate, members of the Florida House suggested Tuesday that the voter initiative to ban smoking in most public places did not go far enough.

Besides a ban in all indoor restaurants, the House Committee on Business Regulation voted 29-5 for a bill that goes beyond the ballot language voters approved in November by enforcing the restrictions in all indoor stand-alone bars.

The House bill, which would allow smoking in places offering outdoor seating, differed dramatically from one proposed last week in the Senate.

The Senate bill calls for several exceptions, among them stand-alone bars, designated rooms at airports, tobacco shops, tobacco factories and wherever it is part of "scientific, political, religious, ideological or other expressive speech or activity."

The House bill (PCB BR 03-01) drew praise from restaurant owners, who said eliminating the exceptions will create a "level playing field."

Opponents of the House bill said the amendment on the ballot included four exceptions -- allowing smoking in hotel rooms, stand-alone bars, private residences and tobacco shops. Pete Dunbar, a lobbyist for stand-alone bars, said voters approved the ban with the understanding that smoking would be permitted in bars and asked House members to reconsider their position when the bill comes up next.

Rep. Jim Kallinger, R-Winter Park, a strong proponent of the House bill, said the first sentence in the ballot language banned smoking in "any workplace."

"If you read further, it did list the exceptions," Kallinger said. "If you read the full body of the amendment, it says at the end, that the Legislature has the right, if we deem necessary, to remove any or all of the exceptions."

Rep. Manuel Prieguez, R-Miami, chairman of the Committee on Business Regulation, said he expects he will have to negotiate the differences between the bills with Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, who sponsored the Senate bill.

For now, Prieguez said the House bill's next step is up to Speaker Johnnie Byrd, who has yet to assign it to another committee. Prieguez expects the bill will return to the committee for more work.

"Quite frankly, I think the Senate has to walk a lot more than I do to reach a middle ground," Prieguez said. "They've created exceptions galore."

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