To the cheers and applause of his colleagues, Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro) on Thursday won his two-year fight to ban smoking on the floor of the Assembly.
On a voice vote, the Assembly overwhelmingly approved the proposal after Felando urged lawmakers to take a step to improve their own health. The legislator's appeal was tinged with emotion because Felando, 54, last month disclosed that he is being treated for a blood-related cancer.
In the last year, he noted in an interview, at least three other members of the 80-member Assembly have been treated for various kinds of cancer and two others have died. Assemblyman Richard E. Longshore (R-Santa Ana), a heavy smoker, died last June of pneumonia and Assemblyman Curtis R. Tucker (D-Inglewood) died last October from liver cancer.
Those deaths, Felando suggested, have prompted lawmakers to "be more conscious about health and about cancer."
During a brief floor debate, Felando admonished his colleagues: "I think for the health of the members of this Assembly and for the visitors who visit us every day we ought to ban smoking."
Immediately after the ban was approved, freshman Assemblyman Willard H. Murray (D-Paramount), who opposed the proposal, crushed out his cigarette, cracking, "We're ruled by the tyranny of the majority."
But Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Carson), one of a handful of smokers in the Assembly, kept right on puffing on his cigarette. "If I slip sometimes, I guess they can have me arrested," he groused to reporters.
Felando, a dentist, said he quit smoking in 1962. When he began pushing the prohibition in 1987, he maintained that the air quality in the Assembly chamber was "hazardous to everyone's health."
In September, 1987, Assembly members ducked taking action on Felando's proposed smoking curb in the chamber, but had no hesitation about voting to ban smoking on public transportation in California.
In the Senate, the right of lawmakers to smoke has not been restricted. Cliff Berg, executive officer of the Senate Rules Committee, said the upper chamber's members have informally discussed establishing a smoking section, but have not considered an outright ban.
Buoyed by his victory, Felando said Thursday he now may seek to prohibit smoking in the entire Capitol.