Up In Smoke
The latest update from our mole in the Minnesota state legislature, the Smoking SOB:
The 2005 session begins January 4, and many House Republican (and DFL too, I bet) members are preparing legislative questionnaires to be sent to local constituents. One trend I see is that many, many members are asking the question, "Should smoking be banned from bars and restaurants?"
Indeed, smoking will be a prominent topic next year. First, there is the DFL bill to ban smoking in public places. Then there is the Blue Cross/Blue Shield bill to up the butt tax by $1 a pack and use the proceeds to address health-related taxes (Republican Rep Fran Bradley of Rochester had a similar bill two sessions ago). Then there is Republican Rep. Marty Seifert's bill to withhold welfare benefits from smokers. I can't wait to see DFL health and welfare rights advocates dance around that amendment.
Being a smoker, I love the attention. And unfortunately, I think you will see much of this legisation getting headway.
I proudly lit a much higher priced Camel filter in 2003 , when proceeds from the
Minnesota tobacco endowment were used to help fix the state budget deficit. I decided to smoke more and do my share during our budget difficulties. While smoking outside the State Office Building (SOB), I often nodded to lobbyists and representatives walking by, saying quietly, "You're welcome! Glad to lend a hand!"
Sigh. Few ackowledged my sacrifice. I was still seen as a pariah.
But I'm willing to pony up again. However, among members of the bipartisan SOB
smoking subcaucus, there is pronounced anxiety that not only will a smoking ban be enacted and taxes upped, but legislation will contain a Phyllis Kahn amendment to prohibit smoking within 150 feet of any public facility. I've often seen Phyllis approach the SOB, wearing her speedos, leering at me and my cigarette.
I've wondered, that as part of the state's tobacco lawsuit (which considered smokers victims of the tobacco companies' machinations), why I am not considered a victim under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)? Shouldn't I receive accommodation (a nice smoking room, with a fireplace, bar) for my disability?
Anti-smoking and related tax legislation will be fun to watch. A Merry Christmas to all!
Interesting legislative tidbit: If you call Rep. Dan Dorman's tire store in Albert Lea, the phone will likely be answered by Wanda, his mother. Be prepared to talk about the weather. A very nice woman.