Says Current Bill Would Have Blocked Tougher Allegheny County Ban

HARRISBURG, June 4, 2008 – State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) said the Senate took bipartisan action today in favor of a stronger statewide smoking ban that would protect Allegheny County’s right to have a tougher local smoking ordinance.

By a 31-19 vote, the Senate rejected a conference committee bill (Senate Bill 246) that would have allowed Philadelphia to keep its own smoking ban while refusing to allow Allegheny County to also have its own. All Allegheny County Senators voted against the bill.

Fontana also praised his Democratic colleagues from Philadelphia. All of them also joined him in his call for a stronger bill.“I fail to understand why the committee chose to let Philadelphia keep a more stringent local smoking ordinance while rejecting one that Allegheny County officials enacted for its 1.3 million citizens,” Fontana said.

“Until someone can explain why Philadelphia deserves preferential treatment over the communities I represent, I will continue to demand that the conference committee work to strengthen the bill and address these unfairness and inequity issues.”

During yesterday’s conference committee meeting in Harrisburg, the committee voted 5-1 in favor of legislation that would have establish a statewide smoking ban with several exceptions that range from allowing smoking in private clubs to casinos and taverns under limited circumstances. The measure also permitted Philadelphia’s smoking ordinance to supersede the proposed statewide law.

Senate Democratic Leader Robert J. Mellow (D-Lackawanna) proposed an amendment that would have allowed Allegheny County and Scranton to re-enact their local smoking ordinances to also preempt the state law. The conference committee, which didn’t have any senators or House members who represent counties west of Harrisburg, voted down the Mellow amendment 3-3.

“While I favor a smoking ban, I think the committee needs to go back to the drawing board,” Fontana said. “This bill has enough exceptions to drive a truck through. If local communities want a stricter prohibition against smoking in public places and stronger protections for workers who are endangered by second-hand smoke, the conference committee should respect their wishes.”

Following the vote to reject the conference committee report, the measure remains on the Senate calendar.

Tagged with: