By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – House Public Health Chair Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, says he sees no need to take up a bill designed to restrict where people can smoke unless he can strengthen the legislation.
“We’re not going to do the Senate’s weak Ned and the Primer version,” Holland said Wednesday soon after the Senate passed the legislation.
Senate Public Health Chair Hob Bryan, D-Amory, introduced legislation at the request of public health advocates, including the state health officer, to ban smoking in all public places, such as restaurants.
In the Public Health Committee, the bill was changed to ban smoking only in government buildings. Bryan said that, in essence, is already the law.
The bill passed the full Senate on Wednesday in weaker version. No effort was made to strengthen the bill on the Senate floor, Bryan said, because public health advocates said they would rather keep the bill alive in the process and try to strengthen it later.
Holland said he fears the House will provide more opposition to the bill in its original form – establishing a statewide ban – than the Senate did.
A matter of fact, Holland said, “I am just libertarian enough not to be crazy about the bill myself.”
But he said he would not stand in the way of passage of a bill with a true statewide ban if he believes it can pass. But he said he sees no need to pass the bill with only the ban in government buildings.
Health care advocates say a statewide smoking ban in all public places is needed because the federal Center for Disease Control has concluded that secondhand smoke is dangerous.
“With a stroke of a pen, with a statewide policy, we could affect a lot of people’s lives,” Health Officer Mary Currier said at an earlier hearing on the issue.
The Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association opposes the bill. The association and others say business owners should not be told how to run their business.