Panel Rejects Bid to Allow Continued Smoking in Bars


Touching on one of California’s major ongoing controversies, a legislative committee Wednesday defeated a measure that would have allowed smokers to continue lighting up in California’s bars, gaming clubs and some parts of hotel lobbies.

A bill before the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee received five votes but needed six to pass. It would have kept such establishments open to smokers for another three years--far longer than intended by drafters of the state’s tough anti-tobacco laws.

Passage would have meant victory for the bill’s author, Assemblyman Dick Floyd (D-Wilmington), who has championed the rights of smokers and gamblers as a personal mission during his several years in public office.


But opponents argued that, with the cancer-causing effects of secondhand smoke widely known, those who frequent and work in such establishments, even if nonsmokers, were being put at risk by Floyd’s bill.

Paul Knepprath of the American Lung Assn. said only a complete ban in all indoor places of employment would fully protect workers “from this toxic substance.”

But clearly pleased with the measure were a number of bar and restaurant owners who testified, including Marvin Saul, Los Angeles owner of Junior’s Restaurant on the Westside.

Though the bill did not apply to his business, Saul said, “A lot of money and tons of jobs would be lost” if the indoor smoking ban exemption was discontinued for “the tourist and hospitality business.”

With the failure of Floyd’s bill (AB 869), the exemption ends on Jan. 1, 1998.

The bill briefly gained supporters when Floyd agreed to delete an element that left the exemption open-ended until federal and state regulators adopted standards for ventilating public places where smoking is allowed--not an action foreseen any time soon.

Floyd agreed to end the exemption period after three years, on Jan. 1, 2001. Originally, in 1994, the exemption for bars, taverns, gaming clubs and certain areas of hotel lobbies was to have lapsed in 1997. Another year was added by legislation in 1996.


Beginning in the 1980s, California started down a path making it one of the most stringent of anti-smoking states. Bans on smoking in kitchen areas of restaurants and on buses and trains came first, then were expanded.

By 1987, smoking was prohibited on commercial airline flights within the state. In 1995 came California’s most sweeping crackdown--a ban on smoking in restaurants and workplaces.

As the Legislature raced to meet a deadline for hearing bills, action was also taken on other measures:

* A bill to require convicted child molesters to be strapped, arm and ankle, with reminders of their crime was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Under Republican Assemblyman Bob Margett’s measure (AB 614), after serving prison time for such crimes, parolees would be fitted with a 2-inch-wide bracelet bearing the names of their victims. Additionally, in test cases, the bill allows authorities to clamp an electronic monitoring device on the ankles of repeat offenders.

* Legislation that would prevent California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. William “Pete” Knight (R-Palmdale) introduced the measure (SB 911)--similar to a Knight bill that failed last year. Majority Democrats on the panel voted the latest proposal down after inserting a hostile amendment that would have allowed gay or straight couples to register as “domestic partners” with certain rights.

* A proposal to allow Californians to invest in tax-free savings accounts for their children’s college education passed on a unanimous vote in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee. Under the bill (AB 13) by Assemblyman Brooks Firestone (R-Los Olivos), the state would pool the invested funds to reap a greater rate of return than individual investors could obtain. Earnings under the program, dubbed Scholarshare, would be state tax-free and federal tax-deferred.


* Another bill (AB 375) by Firestone, to make better use of California’s immense pileup of used tires, passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. The measure by the heir to the Firestone tire fortune would clamp down on illegal dumping from the state’s stockpile of 30 million used tires and offer incentives to recycle. Firestone said his grandfather, founder of the family tire empire, “would approve.”

Times staff writer Jenifer Warren contributed to this story.