Expanded no-smoking zones passed by House

Posted on: April 17 2012
April 17, 2012

By Ed Anderson, The Times Picayune

BATON ROUGE -- Smoking would be banned within 25 feet of handicapped ramps and entrances to public and private buildings where smoking is already outlawed inside, the House said Monday. Representatives voted 81-12 for House Bill 378 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, sending it to the Senate for more debate.
Rep. Frank Hoffman.jpgRep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe

Hoffmann said that any building that is exempt from the ban on smoking -- including gambling establishments, bars and private homes -- would also be exempt from the 25-foot no-smoking zone.

Hoffmann said that "mounting scientific evidence" shows that "there is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke." The bill started out also banning smoking within at least 25 feet of an "operable window and a ventilation system" of buildings, but that was stricken in a House committee last week.

Hoffmann said the bill allows the owners or managers of buildings to ban smoking more than 25 feet from the ramps or entrances to the buildings and post signs designating the area where the ban is in effect.

In response to a question, Hoffman said the provisions of the bill apply even when it's raining. If a building does not have an overhang or cover, the smoker "either gets wet or does not smoke, " he said.

Lawmakers also Monday approved, 84-9, House Bill 95 by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Jefferson, that would prohibit welfare recipients under the Family Independence Temporary Assistance program from using their benefit cards at gambling outlets, liquor stores and sexually oriented businesses, like strip clubs. It also bars cashing in the cards.
Rep. Cameron Henry.jpgRep. Cameron Henry, R-Jefferson

Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, got an amendment on the bill to ban the use of the FITAP cards to buy liquor and tobacco products at any location.

The bill allows the cashing of the cards to buy checks or money orders for the recipient to pay bills, rent or school expenses, Henry said. He said the ban on the use of the cards is meant to rein in inappropriate use of the FITAP money.

"It concerns me that you are saying if you are poor, you can't have cash," Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, told Henry. "You are picking on the on the ... most vulnerable citizens in our state."

Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill will cost the state $454,000 to amend the contract with a company that monitors the card program, money not included in the budget.

Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, tried to sidetrack the bill by having it shunted to Fannin's committee. "This bill has not been truly vetted," Barrow said.

Henry got the House to vote that request down 36-57. He said he is not trying to hurt anyone, just assuring taxpayers money is being properly spent.