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Damon Political Report

Bill limiting indoor smoking ban, delayed by absent lawmakers, is passed by the Assembly

Updated Sunday, June 5, 2011 | 3:04 p.m.

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CARSON CITY – It’s not easy for a high-priced lobbyist working to limit the voter-approved indoor smoking ban to engender much sympathy.

But lobbyist and tavern owner Sean Higgins’ dogged efforts to convince lawmakers to allow food service in adults-only smoking bars has become one of the more entertaining bits of legislative theater this session.

Higgins is not only asking lawmakers to expand indoor smoking—albeit in a limited fashion—he also wants them to tinker with a law that voters overwhelmingly passed five years ago despite a well-funded opposition campaign. Not an easy proposition.

With less than 40 hours to go before the legislative session gavels to a close, Assembly Bill 571 is still alive, barely.

Last week, Higgins was confident he had the votes to get the bill out of the Ways and Means Committee after offering an amendment to address health advocates’ concerns that the bill would expand smoking to some family-friendly sports bars. That was until Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, asked a question, which spurred more questions, which prompted Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, to hold the bill another day.

“Clearly, it’s not soup yet,” Smith said, dousing Higgins’ confidence.

Higgins came back with a second amendment to further tighten the bill, and the Ways and Means Committee sent it to the Assembly floor in a split vote.

Late Saturday night, Higgins waited with bated breath in the Assembly gallery, once again confident he had just enough votes to move the bill to the Senate.

But three of his votes—Assemblymen Tom Grady, R-Yerington; Randy Kirner, R-Reno; and Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley—just never showed up to the floor session. (Kirner was sick, Grady had another engagement in Yerington and Goedhart reportedly had car trouble.)

“I’ve got the votes!” Higgins repeated, red faced and on the edge of his seat.

Because of the absent lawmakers, the bill was once again held another day until the Assembly could muster 100 percent attendance.

Higgins was in luck Sunday afternoon. With all members present, the Assembly decided to have a little fun with the high-strung lobbyist.

First they all voted against the measure. Then half voted for the measure and half against. Then they voted to pass it. Then they voted again to kill. Finally, they settled on a 23-19 vote in favor of limiting the smoking ban.

Higgins has little more than a day to move it through the Senate. He's more coy about whether he think he has the votes in the Senate.

Health advocates are decrying the last minute effort and calling for a full hearing in the Senate.

“It’s still bad policy and goes against what Nevadans support,” said Michael Hackett, consultant for the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition, in a written release. “It would permit smoking in places where it’s now prohibited and creates enforcement challenges that may be insurmountable.”

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  1. No adult has the "right" to visit a private establishment and demand that a legal substance cannot be used inside. It's time to do one of two things: stop the government from overstepping its control of adult usage of legal substances, or ban tobacco altogether.

  2. Make a simple law.

    Require the owners of the bars post a sign on their doors that state it is "smoking" or "Non Smoking" then you make the choice if you want to go there or not.

    The owners spend their money to build their business and open it. It should be their choice what crowd they want to cater to. If you don't like the choice, don't go there.

    Anyone remember freedom of choice?

  3. Anjeanette:

    I'm sure you meant "bated breath" (as in abated or holding), not "baited" unless you know something about Mr. Higgins's oral hygiene that we don't know. I do know his efforts stink.

  4. It's Ok Sean. They had their fun but you got it through!! As one who was going to purchase a tavern, this bill needs to pass for very obvious reasons. The debate has been going on long enough, but it is a matter of survival for small business owners. I am sure that most of the tavern owners will do whatever posiible to accommodate everyone as best as possible. But it is impossible to please everyone.
    Someone explain to me why the majority of the Democrats voted against this bill....

  5. The courthouse is a public building, a tavern, in most instances, is private property.

    Laws should keep that distinction in mind.

  6. "Didnt voters already vote on this? Businesses will never do the right thing. . . . .Stupid for bar owners to think business is down because of the smoking ban, dont they read the papers?"

    mslv -- not only are you in the minority here, you seem to be oblivious to the real point of it all. Government is the problem, not the solution, especially when it dictates what people can and can't do when they're about their own business on their own property.

    Government needs to get out of the way and let commerce -- and the rest of us -- recover!

    "Bans on public smoking aren't an infringement only on the rights of smokers, they're an infringement on the rights of property owners. If I invest my own money or risk my own financial security by taking out a loan to start up a pub or restaurant, I ought to be able to serve my customers on my own terms. And my customers and employees ought to be free to make their own decisions about the risks they're willing to undertake in exchange for service or employment. . . Smoking bans tend to have a minimal effect on large and chain restaurants. But when it comes to smaller, more independent businesses -- pubs, diners, bowling alleys and the like -- bans can be devastating. " -- Radley Balko's article in the Washington Examiner, February 16, 2005.

  7. All of this could have been avoided had both parties came to the table but when one comes to the table alone then the law will be in the favor of the lone negotiator of the bill, If you think that things are not going to change and you gamble and say we won't come to the table and expect your concerns to be left intact, Well you are going to be educated.
    And as for the Argument of the business owners should do as they please, Keep this in mind the tax payers who own the county governing body also has the same right to do as they please after all it's the governing body and the citizens who have created the Market place in which you the business wishes to apply your trade with the agreement of compliance to all ordinances implemented by the govern body and if you don't like it then close your business because I think someone else will take your place.
    Now me personally I think the smoking thing should be allowed only in Tavern or bar districts, For example we have medical districts that only medical types of business my do business in and we have gaming districts that only gaming can be done and so forth so I think that smoking and food can be allowed in the tavern district as long as the tavern or bar is restricted to their district meaning you have to remain a bar or tavern not become a restaurant that serves drinks in a tavern district. Sort of how this Dotty's thing is they have used there business as a way into another market without having to comply as the others do and all they do is cry "I am a Business owner and I should do as I want" and you can with-in the realm of your district. This is why bars and grocery stores are limited on account we would have casino's everywhere.

  8. "Time to change this States name to Upper Nevalifornia!"

    BeSafe -- or Nevagon, or Nevtah.

  9. TomD, I would disagree that the person you encountered was one in a million. I try to be considerate of others, as does my wife. We do not patronize non-smoking establishments if we have a choice. But at the same time we do not expect others to be exposed to our habit.

    It's called common courtesy and respect.

  10. I recall an incident many years ago. I was sitting at the counter at the old Dunes grill all by myself. I was enjoying a cup of coffee and a smoke when this lady sat down 2 seats away and put a battery operated fan on the counter pointed at me. She even said to me that she wanted me to stop smoking around her.

    I bit my tongue instead of saying what I wanted to.

    Would it have been so hard for her to sit further away?

  11. I appreciate the satire there, but at the time I was the *only* patron in the coffee shop, it being about 4AM or so. :) (What was I doing at the Dunes at 4AM you ask? It was COMDEX, what can I say?)

  12. Just add another Five Dollars per pack to Cigarettes to help offset the extra medical insurance costs from second hand smoke. You may have the right to smoke however I have the right not to subsidize your habit. And I'm not only talking about myself but all the workers having to tolerate it and then later in life having no insurance for medical treatment. Tavern and Bar owners should be required to provide full medical coverage to their employees in smoking environments due to increased health risks, especially with the Huge profits they claim they will be making - mabe we should even audit their books.

  13. Penn and Teller (non-smokers) had a very good presentation (refutation) of this argument about second hand smoke on their HBO series "Bullsh*t!".

    You really have to admit that when comics can shoot down most of the arguments you have to wonder about who is kidding who.

  14. Is anyone convinced, against all the scientific evidence, that a pair of magicians should even be listened to on this subject or do you agree that boftx, again, hasn't a clue what it is talking about?

  15. Mr. Ben Lambert, why not add $5 tax to every gallon of gasoline that you put into your vehicle to offset the environmental and health damage you do every time you drive? Those who only walk and bicycle are subjected to your cancer causing pollution every time they leave the house... Come to think of it, let's add $5 tax to every plate of gas-causing food to offset the result of methane release while we're at it!

  16. Mr. Schaffer, all the scientific evidence in the world is irrelevant. Tobacco remains a legal product, and it remains absurd both (a) for the government to try to control the use of a legal product within the confines of adults-only private establishments, and (b) for the government to hold up the fairytale promise that if we all just do what it tells us, we can live forever, just so it can impose the egocentric will of some people against the behavior of others.

  17. "Penn and Teller (non-smokers) had a very good presentation (refutation) of this argument about second hand smoke on their HBO series "Bullsh*t!"

    boftx -- actually their series is on Showtime. The link to a slice of that show is @

    Good stuff!

    James_P_Reza -- excellent post! mschaffer and his ilk have proven here over and over again they're not interested in opposing opinions, no matter how well supported.

    "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." -- John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963)

  18. If people would smoke and drink and use drugs responsibly we wouldn't need all these regulations.

  19. James ignores all the restrictions currently in place that limit tobacco use and that its use harms others to make some irrational point. What is adult about using a product that is filled with known carcingens and harms the people around you, ostensibly people you care about? As for his argument one is making the absurd argument that we will live forever except James. But the oxygen tanks I see hooked up to long time smokers should be a clue to the quality of life they will face before they die.
    As for B's argument that I am not interested in others opinions if well supported, this is untrue. It is just that B and James don't know the difference between well supported and magicians. Penn and Teller do get it right when it comes to vaccinations but this does give them a buy on the issue of second hand smoke. I will stick to credible research and the rest of you can continue to spout nonsense.

  20. Mr. Schaffer, once again, you ignored the point (tobacco remains legal, and therefore its use by adults in an adult establishment on private property should be regulated only by the administrators of that property, not the government). Further, nobody addressed that carcinogens and pollutants are created and foisted upon me by your use of energy.

    Thankfully, the Nevada senate has as of now also approved the eased restrictions, and I can continue to be an adult and make the choice to exit any locale where I am uncomfortable - regardless of the reason.

  21. Once again James, you don't understand that the public, through the normal legislative process and law has a perfect right to decide what businesses do when interacting with the public. It is unfortunate that the illness and death rates will now rise, although for profit hospitals will see an increase in business for people dumb enough to restart smoking in public and others to subject themselves to this idiocy.