Smoking ban revived in Texas Senate

June 21, 2011 at 4:26 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, June 21 (UPI) -- The Texas Legislature is reviving in its special session a bill that would ban smoking in restaurants and bars statewide, lawmakers said.

The bill, which didn't make it through during the regular legislative session in Austin, was approved Monday on a 5-4 vote by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and a similar bill is pending in the House, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The bill, which would prohibit smoking in restaurants and bars, was added to the special session by connecting it to the budget-related agenda issue of a Medicaid cost-reduction bill, the Star-Telegram reported.

The bill's proponents said the law could save at least $30 million in Medicaid costs.

Opponents, mostly conservative groups, view the bill as a government intrusion into private enterprises, the Star-Telegram reported.

A similar ordinance was enacted years ago in Austin and has been very effective, said former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd, adding, "Do the right thing and pass the law."

The bill, which is more limited than the earlier proposal, would affect public businesses that seek Department of State Health Services or the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission permits. Tobacco-selling businesses would be exempt, the newspaper said.

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