By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – House Public Health Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said Tuesday that he chose to kill anti-smoking legislation because he could not get enough votes to pass it.
Tuesday was the deadline in the Mississippi Legislature to pass out of committee bills that originated in the other chamber.
The original bill would have banned smoking in all public places, such as restaurants and other retail outlets. It was introduced by Senate Public Health Chairman Hob Bryan, D-Amory, at the request of public health advocates, including state Health Officer Mary Currier.
In the Senate Public Health Committee, the bill was changed to ban smoking only in government buildings. Bryan said that is in essence already the law, but that was the version the full Senate passed.
Earlier, Holland said he was not interested in what he called the “Senate’s weak ‘Ned and the Primer’ version” of the bill.
On Tuesday, he said there were not enough votes in his chamber to pass the legislation.
In a letter to members of the state House, Holland said, “We have surveyed, personally spoken with and cajoled this (Public Health) Committee for two months. The votes simply aren’t here this year to pass meaningful legislation.”
Earlier this session, Currier and officials with the federal Centers for Disease Control testified before the House and Senate Public Health committees that scientific evidence confirmed the danger of secondhand smoke.
Plus, testimony indicated that a majority of Mississippians – 78 percent – supported a statewide ban, according to a survey done by Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center.
The Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association opposed the bill. The association and others say business owners should not be told how to run their business.
While there is no statewide ban, 37 municipalities in Mississippi, including Tupelo, have passed ordinances to ban smoking in public places.