Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good But Not Good Enough

On Tuesday, May 26, the House passed HB 4377 by a vote of 73-31. The bill makes workplaces smoke free with exemptions for casino gaming floors, cigar bars and tobacco specialty shops. An amendment requiring that a cigar bar or tobacco shop be in existence by December 31, 2009; makes all casinos smoke free after all lower peninsula tribal casinos go smoke free; and gives the Michigan Gaming Commission the power to define the term “gaming floor” was substituted for the bill.

Those of you who have followed this saga will no doubt see the striking similarities to last year’s smoke free debate. Despite pressure from thousands of constituents across the state, the House leadership still did not see the wisdom in supporting a full ban. According to the subscription only MIRS news, Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, and Representative Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, “engineered” the vote; “basically by getting the 69-member House Democratic Caucus to go along.”

Dillon maneuvered the floor so that the caucus-preferred version of HB 4377, complete with exemptions, was the one that passed. All amendments offered on the floor, with the exception of the amendment mentioned above, were quick-gaveled down without any roll call votes.

Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, and Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, each offered their own amendments to change HB 4377 to a comprehensive bill. Unfortunately, as with the other amendments, Rep. Shanelle Jackson, D-Detroit, followed the leadership’s directives and gaveled voice votes a split second after Bauer and Scott spoke.

In a press release from the Campaign for Smokefree Air (a group which TFM is affiliated with), spokesperson Judy Stewart expressed her disappointment. “This is a weak attempt to provide smokefree protection to Michigan workers. Though we’re happy that the House has moved legislation, we still feel that all workers deserve to breathe smokefree air. We’re disappointed that amendments to make the legislation stronger were not considered.”

The bill is set to advance to the Senate next Tuesday, June 2. The Republican-controlled Senate has previously said that they will support nothing less than a full ban. This year, however, there is word circulating that Senate Majority Leader, Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, has been getting a lot of pressure from smoke free proponents. Bishop’s spokesperson has said that the majority leader won't stand in the way of what the caucus wants to do in regard to passing a bill with exemptions.

“We have faith that in the end Michigan lawmakers will do the right thing and protect the health of all Michigan workers,” said Stewart. “No one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck.”

Thank you again for all of your calls and emails to your Representatives and to the Speaker of the House. Although we are disappointed to see a bill with exemptions and will continue to advocate for a comprehensive bill, we are happy to see that some progress has been made toward smoke free air in Michigan. We will be sending out and posting an action alert within the next week with the next steps in this campaign.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

***ACTION ALERT*** One small step in the right direction...

On Wednesday, May 20, the House Regulatory Reform Committee took a small step towards smoke free air for Michigan by passing HB 4377.* The bill would make restaurants and bars smoke free, but exempts casinos, cigar bars, and tobacco specialty shops. These exemptions leave many Michigan workers unprotected from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke.

Fortunately, the House has the opportunity to amend the bill and vote on a comprehensive smoke free legislation that would protect ALL of Michigan’s workers. We need your help to make this possible. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, D-Rochester, has recently made another public comment that the Senate will only consider comprehensive smoke free legislation with NO exemptions.

Here’s what to do now:

  • Call Speaker of the House Andy Dillon at 888-737-3455 TODAY and ask him to take action to pass a comprehensive (no exemptions) smoke free bill by supporting the Bauer-P. Scott amendment before next week.

It is because of concerned citizens like you that have gotten this bill back on track. A mere month and a half ago, Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, and Senator Bishop were telling us that the bill wasn’t important and would not be handled until summer, at best. Several action alerts were sent out and you responded! Phone lines were shut down, and inboxes were flooded by Michiganders across the state demanding smoke free air.

Thank you for all of your support and hard work. When this bill passes, know that it was due, in large part, to your phone calls.

*The bill passed 9-1. Representative Jim Stamas, R-Midland, Representative Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, passed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Glimmer of Hope

Two and a half weeks after Regulatory Reform Committee Chair Bert Johnson delayed the much anticipated vote on a smoke free workplaces bill, he has scheduled another hearing on the matter. The bill is sandwiched in with a mess of other items on the agenda from a bill allowing a restaurant on Wayne State’s campus to sell liquor to a bill regulating hearing aid dealer license fees.

The number of bills on the Committee’s to-do list suggests that HB 4377 will be voted on and may just make it to the House floor. There is little doubt that this hearing is happening because of the furious flurry of calls and emails that have been logged on the Speaker’s and House Majority Leader’s lines.

For over a month, everyday people from around the state have voiced their support of smoke free air…loudly. Here’s hoping that our legislative leadership has woken up to smell the smoke free air.

The hearing will take place on Wednesday, May 20th at 12:00 p.m. at 326 House Office Building in Lansing.

Individuals who wish to bring written testimony need to supply a minimum of thirty copies for distribution. Individuals needing special accommodations to participate in the meeting may contact the Chair's office.
Committee Clerk: Eric Esch
Phone: 517-373-0070

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marlboro country goes smoke free--Pure Michigan still waiting to breathe freely.

A lot of fuss has been made about how much Michigan businesses will suffer if the state goes smoke free. The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association and the Michigan Restaurant Association have trotted out members testifying that they are positive they’ll lose business if the smoke free workplaces bill goes through. The evidence has been largely anecdotal and has been debunked by hundreds of peer-reviewed studies conducted nationwide. Despite the mountain of proof to the contrary, MLBA and MRA have continued to whine to the legislature about how Michigan’s economy is already suffering and that a law like this would be equivalent to a death blow for small businesses across the state.

Meanwhile, in tobacco rich North Carolina, legislators approved legislation that would ban smoking bars and restaurants.* Governor Beverly Purdue has said she will sign the bill into law.

North Carolina’s ban has been a long time in the making and is something many thought would never happen. Tobacco has long been one of the mainstays of the state’s economy, but the legislators said they had to take public health into consideration.

“Tobacco has a great legacy in North Carolina. It's done some great things, (but) certainly, people have a right to smoke-free air,” said House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, who has survived two battles with lung cancer.

The fact that nearly ¾ of the country, including tobacco rich Virginia and North Carolina, can pass some sort of smoke free legislation demonstrates that this is a public health issue. When will the Michigan legislative leadership wake up and smell the smoke free air?

At a time when preventative health budgets are being slashed and burned, it’s even more important that we protect the public health in whatever way we can. States that have passed smoke free legislation have seen a significant drop in hospital admissions for cardiac arrest. In addition, hospitality workers reported a decrease in sensory symptoms (red or irritated eyes, sore or scratchy throat, runny nose, sneezing or nose irritation) caused by secondhand smoke following implementation of smoke free laws.

Over two-thirds of Michigan residents support smoke free legislation. Most of our legislators would like to see Michigan go smoke free. Champions like Senators Ray Basham, D-Taylor and Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit and Representatives Joan Bauer, D-Lansing and Paul Scott, D-Grand Blanc have all pushed hard for smoke free legislation and should be applauded. So why the delay?

The blame lies squarely with our legislative leadership: Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, D-Rochester. Michigan needs a win and this is an easy victory for public health, for the economy, and for Michiganders across the state. Contact Bishop and Dillon today and tell them to move smoke free legislation forward.

Dillon can be reached at (888) 737-3455 or
Bishop can be reached at (877) 924-7467 or

*A reader pointed out to me that I may have posted a little too soon on this one. The entry initially read that the NC ban covered all workplaces. It in fact only covers restaurants and bars and does not cover private workplaces.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Michigan legislators need to do their jobs

There’s been a lot of fuss lately about Sen. Tupac Hunter’s, D-Detroit, bill which would place the smoke free air issue on the 2010 ballot. The proposal, if passed, would finally give Michigan a fully comprehensive smoke free workplaces law. The casino issue would be moot because they wouldn’t get the exemption that has been one of the major reasons behind the hold up.

While Senator Hunter’s proposal is admirable, it doesn’t address the problem. The problem isn’t just smoke free air; the problem is “key legislators” like Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, and Speaker Andy Dillon, R-Redford. These two have managed to step on the bill at every opportunity, outwardly shirking their responsibilities to the people of Michigan while kissing babies as they take steps towards their next political aspirations (Bishop for Attorney General and Dillon for Governor).

During last December’s near passage of the smoke free workplaces bill, it seemed like Dillon was behind the bill. He has said publicly that he’s behind the bill, but conversations with the Speaker have revealed that he’d vote “NO” on a bill if it ever got out of committee. This is an interesting reveal coming from the same man who, during his inaugural speech this year, prioritized the smoke free workplaces bill and challenged himself and his colleagues to pass it before summer.

It has become abundantly clear to anyone paying attention to this issue that Andy Dillon has broken his word to the 2/3 of Michigan citizens who support this bill. He is the one stopping the bill from getting to the House floor, he is the one who has stymied any movement by grassroots advocates, and he is the one who should take responsibility.

It is well understood that the smoke free workplaces issue would pass overwhelmingly if it were to wind up on the ballot. But keep in mind that would be an expensive and ugly process that places the entire burden on Michigan citizens. Why should YOU shoulder the workload and expense of the legislature’s job? Why should YOU be responsible for cleaning up a mess that Andy Dillon has made worse?

During his inaugural speech he said, “[Michiganders] expect us to make the tough decisions, just like they are making at home and in the corporate boardroom throughout the state. They sent us here to do a job, and it is incumbent upon us, as their employees, to do it.” Call him today at (888) 737-3455 or email at and tell him to do his job and get a comprehensive smoke free law passed.

As for Marlboro Mike Bishop, his hands aren’t clean either. He can act on SB 114 (Sen. Basham's comprehensive smoke free bill) any time he wants. As for Sen. Hunter’s ballot initiative? Bishop stuck it in Government Operations and Reform, aka “Where Bills Go To Die.” He’s said in the past that when it comes to a smoke free bill, it’s all or nothing. Well, 66% of Michigan residents want it all. Tell him to listen to his constituency and protect the public health. He can be reached at (877) 924-7467 and