The House version bans smoking in all workplaces, but senators provide exceptions.
TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Senate passed a bill Thursday that would implement a workplace smoking ban approved by voters, but weakened restrictions previously approved by the House.
The Senate changes would allow smoking in businesses with food sales of 12 percent or less, at veterans halls and at Miami International Airport's waiting lounge for international travelers. It would increase penalties from $500 to $1,000 for a first violation and $2,500 for subsequent violations. The bill passed 34-3 with no debate.
However, the Florida Restaurant Association is still concerned about the food sales percentage. "Five to 10 percent is the absolute most we can even think about," FRA president Carol Dover said Thursday.
It also wants the fines assessed against the customer, not the proprietor.
Restaurateurs, however, do approve of the House bill, passed April 1. That measure (HB 1757), is much tougher than the Senate's. It would ban smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars.
The Senate's amended version now goes back to the House for its consideration. It's uncertain whether the proposal will pass before today's end of the regularly scheduled 60-day session, because the House has a rule calling for a 48-hour waiting period before passing a bill that has been changed.
Nearly 3.4-million Floridians voted for a constitutional amendment in November to ban smoking in the workplace to protect the public from secondhand smoke. The measure called for the tougher standards to take effect by July 1.
The amendment allowed for exceptions for stand-alone bars, designated rooms in hotels and motels and home businesses that don't provide child care or health care. But its language was ambiguous in many areas, leaving lawmakers to get a bill passed that complies with voters' wishes.