Hope for a smoke-free Texas seems officially snuffed. State Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, said today that a statewide smoking ban would not live on as an amendment to Senate Bill 1811, a major "fiscal matters" bill.
“It was a combination of bad public policy, in my opinion, and the realization that there weren’t the votes," he said.
The legislation would have prohibited smoking in restaurants, bars and other public facilities that require a license from the health department. According to the bill’s fiscal note, such a ban could save the state more than $31 million in Medicaid costs over the next biennium.
A special session hinges on SB 1811, and Deuell said keeping the ban amendment in the bill puts it at risk of being derailed by a procedural objection. “That bill was too important to jeopardize over that issue.”
Despite Deuell’s claim, Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas, the House author of the legislation, said she has the support of four House conferees and is still working with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to retain the ban. “We’re praying for one of those last-minute session miracles,” she said.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, issued a statement today saying, “I am extremely disappointed that the will of the people has again been thwarted by the Texas legislature when it comes to passing Smoke-Free legislation.” But after speaking with Crownover, Ellis retracted his words. “It’s too early to tell,” he said.