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SB 348 by Sen. Rob Marionneaux would ban smoking in bars and casinos. He told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this would protect workers in these environments from the deleterious effects of second-hand smoking. He said if other places can do it, so can
Opponents pointed out they predicted a decline of business that would have an adverse impact on government revenues. Also, the decision whether to allow smoking should be left in the hands of the business, since their customers can choose whether to patronize smoking establishments. Sen. Karen Peterson wondered whether any offset in revenues would be matched by reduction in expenses for health care. She said a tobacco tax could compensate. Sen. Joe McPherson said he actually was liking it because it might cut down on gambling. He said money that could have been spent on gambling them might be spent on another productive activity that the state could gain revenue from. Sen. Sherri Cheek said many employees in these environments did not have employer-sponsored insurance so the state would have to pick up health costs.
Marionneaux said money concerns should not get in the way of health concerns. He said if something like prostitution can be regulated, so should smoking. He also questioned whether there would be a significant economic impact for the worse. Without opposition the bill was passed.
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HB 334 by Marionneaux would do what the previous bill did except allow smoking in bars where food was not served at all. He immediately offered an amendment to make the cutoff 10 percent, called this a way of getting rid of a “loophole” that allowed what really were restaurants to allow smoking ,and called the bill as a whole a “fallback.” The amendment was adopted unanimously.
Some of the same opponents spoke. The said this would create an unlevel playing field among establishments and complicate licensing requirements. Marionneaux said this bill was needed despite the other because of the uncertainties of the legislative process, and would close the loophole. The bill was passed without objection.
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HB 959 by Rep. Walker Hines presented his bill to the House Health and Welfare Committee but without the moratorium on the Resource Allocation Model, amending it only to require studies and reports to make sure that use of the model is being used in a way that supports more efficient use of monies. Originally, the bill would have halted use of this policy by which decisions were made to apportion home-based care for the elderly and disabled because it was not being applied to all settings, such as nursing homes. He didn’t know the cost because no fiscal note was provided, so he assumed it was negligible. He pointed out that unused beds in nursing homes numbered about 9,000 out of 34,000, or $23 million the state paid for these that could have gone to waivers.
Chairwoman Rep. Kay Katz wondered if the information legally could be collected. Hines said yes. Witnesses in state government argued that for federal law it would work but was not as sure concerning state law since it was more individualized. They also said it seemed possible to collect this data. Rep. Neil Abramson said information was good and there should be no reason to further disseminate it, especially since most already was being collected. Rep. Bernard LeBas wondered if this wouldn’t create an extra layer of bureaucracy, but Hines argued that it really would not. LeBas said maybe some could be incorporated into another bill.
Rep. Rickey Nowlin said he couldn’t support the bill but thought it should be incorporated into his similar bill (HB 1185) due on the House floor tomorrow. Hines accepted the offer. He also reiterated that more information was better for all providers concerned and taxpayers.
Supporters argued that the matter would not get the attention it deserved unless this bill passed and in the form of a statute, not a resolution. Afterwards, Hines said in the interests of realism in getting the intent of his bill to move forward he would voluntarily defer and work with Nowlin to include his language in that bill. The committee indulged him.