Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Andy Dillon Should Bring Up the Smoke Free Bill…Again

Nearly a month ago, the House voted on HB 4377 which would make Michigan workplaces smoke free but exempted casinos, cigar bars, and tobacco shops. Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) had reportedly told his caucus members that he would allow a vote on a clean bill without exemptions, but when those amendments came up (respectively brought by Rep. Joan Bauer (D-Lansing) and Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Haven)), they were quickly gaveled down and no votes were taken. Dillon said he wanted to see what the Senate did with HB 4377.

Despite Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s (R-Rochester) previous statements that he would only allow a vote on a clean bill, Dillon seemed optimistic that he could “work something out” between the chambers. However, Speaker Dillon also made some public statements to business owners as well as to members of his caucus that if the Senate failed to act on the smoke free workplaces issue that he would allow for a vote on a comprehensive bill.

As of this writing, twenty-nine full days have passed since the House sent HB 4377 over to the Senate. It’s time for Speaker Dillon to act by sending a comprehensive smoke free bill, such as Rep. Bauer’s HB 4341 or Rep. Scott’s HB 4099 to the floor for a vote.

Here are 10 reasons why Speaker Dillon should take up the smoke free workplaces bill:

10. Leadership. Dillon can take this opportunity to pass comprehensive legislation and become a leader and champion for the state’s public health, rather than being accused of “holding up” Michigan’s health by passing a bill the Senate leadership has refused to address. He can ">“take the lead” in creating public health reform that works.

9. Public Health. As someone who has said he is committed to public health, this would be a big victory for both Dillon and the State of Michigan. States that have gone smoke free report have reported near immediate drops in the heart attack rate. Long term benefits include further drops in heart attack, cancer, and asthma rates.

8. Poker and Politics. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop has wavered on the idea of even taking up the issue of smoke free air. Bishop has previously said, however, that he would consider allowing a vote on a comprehensive bill. If Speaker Dillon passed a comprehensive bill he would call Bishop’s bluff, leaving him no choice but to allow a vote on smoke free air. Smoke free air can be debated as a public health issue, not a political game.

7. The economy. Research shows that the new economy thrives in areas that provide access to a great quality of life. Quality of life factors can include health care, jobs, and working conditions. States with smoke free workplaces laws have reported less employee absenteeism due to smoking related illnesses and ailments (such as chest colds, bronchitis, asthma, etc). Employees in smoke free states also report a more pleasant working experience (as compared to pre-smoke free status). Employers also generally see a decrease in direct health care costs for insurance, as well as lower maintenance costs (since carpets, furniture, and equipment last longer in smoke free environments).

6. The economy. Michigan residents spend 1.1 billion Medicaid dollars on smoking related health care. Each Michigan resident spends at least $306 annually to address smoking related health care costs. In addition, the state loses $3.95 billion in production costs due to tobacco use.

5. Constituency. It is what the people want. Over 2/3 of Michigan voters have indicated that they support smoke free laws. Give the people what they want.

4. Bipartisan cooperation. During his Opening Day Remarks, Dillon said, “While we may never end the partisanship that has divided this Capitol in the past, we can focus our energies in areas where we share common ground.” The smoke free workplaces law epitomizes an area where there is common ground. Legislators on both sides of the aisle support comprehensive smoke free air, and Speaker Dillon would do well to unite the parties on this issue.

3. Integrity. If Speaker Dillon took a vote on comprehensive smoke free air, it would add to his reputation as a politician who keeps his word. Following the failed vote on HB 4163 last session, Dillon assured smoke free advocates that the issue would be taken up again during 2009. On opening day, he prioritized the smoke free air issue and challenged his colleagues to finish working on the issue.

2. Future prospects. Speaker Dillon is term limited in 2010. Following a long and successful political career in the House, it’s hard to imagine that either Dillon or his constituents want to see him go anywhere. In a run for Governor, Attorney General, or other office, having this law’s passage on his list of accomplishments will stand out. (See also Reasons 3-5).

1. This really is a life or death issue. The Surgeon General has concluded that there is NO safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. Following the implementation of smoke free laws, heart attack rates go down significantly. Within two months of going smoke free, states have reported 60% drops in complaints about respiratory difficulty (such as shortness of breath, asthma attacks, bronchitis, etc). Passing a smoke free workplaces law is an efficient, economical way to help our struggling public health system.

Michigan's people have waited for too long. The evidence is in, the support is overwhelming, the time is NOW.

Contact Speaker Dillon and ask him to do the right thing, keep his word, and call for a vote on comprehensive smoke free air.

CALL: 888-737-3455
FAX: 517-373-5976
26284 Graham Rd.
Redford Township, MI 48239

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Bishop lets Michigan down - needlessly delays smoking bill

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) referred the smoke free workplaces bill to committee. Unfortunately, the Senator chose the Government Operations & Reform Committee, a.k.a. “Where Bills Go to Die.”

Last week there was hope on the smoking ban. The House of Representatives had passed HB 4377 with 73 votes. Although Senator Bishop had previously stated that he wouldn’t even glance at a bill with exemptions (HB 4377 exempts casinos and cigar bars), the House vote seemed to change his tone slightly and Bishop hinted that he would “take the temperature” of the room. If people supported the bill he’d take up the issue.

I don’t know what room Bishop is in, but clearly that room is NOT in Michigan. Bishop has since said that he’s in no rush to even consider the bill. So, despite the fact that 2/3 of Michiganders want smoke free air, and that we’re one of only 13 states without a smoke free law of any kind, and that it has been proven time and time and time again that businesses are NOT harmed by smoke free legislation, Bishop fully intends to let this issue die.

Don’t let him get away with these shenanigans. There are some who have said that this is just the way things are done in Lansing. That certain legislators’ lack of action and political gameplaying are par for the course, should be expected, and that nothing can be done...

Baloney. Senators Ray Basham (D-Taylor) and Tupac Hunter (D-Detroit) have been clamoring for a smoke free bill because they "get it" and have been listening to what their constituents want. Senator Tom George (R-Kalamazoo), a doctor who understands just how deadly secondhand smoke is, pushed Bishop to take up the bill during the last session. There are Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle who are behind this issue. The problem isn’t the legislators, it's the “leadership” in the legislature.

Bishop has said he won’t be pressured by any groups to move the smoke free bill. That despite public support, he has no intention to bring it to the floor. Since when is it ok for elected officials to so blatantly shirk their jobs? Who gave Bishop the green light to discount the majority of Michiganders in favor of a small group of folks who make up a mere fraction of the state’s population?

Dillon didn’t move on the bill until he was told to, repeatedly, by thousands of Michiganders who shut down his lines calling for a hearing. It was the grassroots that helped get the smoke free air issue heard, the grassroots who have moved it along, and the grassroots who CAN put this issue to bed.

Now it’s time to send Senator Bishop the same message: “Take action on the smoke free bill NOW, not later, not when you feel like it, NOW.”

There is no good reason why this bill should be delayed any further. Call Senator Mike Bishop and tell your friends, neighbors, family and anyone else you run into to call him, too.

Here is Bishop’s contact info:
Phone: 877-924-7467 or 517-373-2417
Address: 883 Great Oaks Blvd.; Rochester, MI 48307

Don’t let Dillon off the hook, either. He’s partially to blame for this mess after barring votes on clean versions of the bill which would have forced Bishop’s hand. Speaker Dillon may have moved the bill, but his job is far from done, he may be able to persuade Bishop to take another look at this issue.

Call Dillon and tell him you don’t want this bill to die.
Phone: 888-737-3455 or 517-373-0857
Address: 26284 Graham Rd.; Redford Township, MI 48239

Tuesday, June 2, 2009



Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 73-31 to pass HB 4377. This bill would make Michigan workplaces smoke free, including restaurants and bars. Although HB 4377 does make exemptions for casino gaming floors, tobacco specialty shops, and cigar bars it is much closer to the clean bill the Senate passed last December.

We are closer to a smoke free workplaces law than we’ve ever been and we have you to thank! Your quick and forceful responses to our Action Alerts have made a HUGE impact on our elected officials. Last session the House passed a very similar bill with 56 votes. That number jumped up by 17 votes because of your calls, letters, and emails.

The bill is now in the Senate for consideration. We must keep the pressure on the Senate and tell them how important it is to take up this legislation. Here’s what we need you to do:

Please call the Office of Your Senator. To find their contact information go to and click on the "Find your Senator" link in the left column of the page.

Tell the person answering the phone your name and why you are calling. ("I am calling regarding the smoke free workplaces issue/the smoking legislation/smoking in bars and restaurants")

• Please tell your lawmaker that you want them to vote for a comprehensive smoke free air bill that protects ALL of Michigan’s workers.

• If you have a brief personal story about secondhand smoke and how its affected you, share it with your lawmaker. Tell him/her why smoke free air is so important to you.

Again, thank you for your dedication to this issue. Your voice is the most powerful tool we have in this process. It was your voices that got this issue back on the agenda, and your voices that will resolve this issue. Together, we CAN make 2009 the year that Michigan passes a smoke free law.