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Smoking all butt banned

ST. PAUL - A statewide smoking ban likely to take effect Oct. 1 is one of the biggest health advances in Minnesota history, its main sponsor said moments after representatives passed it early Saturday.

Tom Rukavina speaks

ST. PAUL - A statewide smoking ban likely to take effect Oct. 1 is one of the biggest health advances in Minnesota history, its main sponsor said moments after representatives passed it early Saturday.

Its only rival is the original clean air act that drastically limited smoking in 1975, said Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth.

"This is a huge change for health in the state," he added.

The House passed the measure 81-48 at 1 a.m. after two hours of debate. Senators passed it 43-21 nearly 12 hours earlier.

The bill now goes to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who said he expects to sign it.


It was a compromise drawn from earlier proposals passed by the House and Senate. It bans smoking in nearly every public place, including bars, restaurants and bingo halls, with a few mostly minor exceptions.

Much of the House debate centered on a provision in the bill representatives had passed earlier allowing smoking rooms in bars. House and Senate negotiators dropped it over the objection of many lawmakers.

"I sure wouldn't want you to be in a fight backing me up," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said to Huntley, the lead House negotiator.

Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, told his colleagues that he doesn't have to go into a bar if it is smoky.

"I vote with my feet," Solberg said.

But Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, was much more emotional, calling the bill "tyranny, oppressive governmental power."

"This piece of legislation turned out to be just plain mean," the normally calm Ozment said during a fiery speech.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, complained that a provision negotiators added runs counter to consistency most sought in a statewide ban.


The new provision allows - but does not require - local governments to ban smoking outside bars, restaurants and bingo halls. That returns to the present patchwork system of smoking control, Juhnke said.

Huntley said he has no plans to extend the ban to parks or other outside areas. He said he is ready to move on to the next big health issue: obesity.

Ban supporters argued since they introduced the bill early this legislative session that it was all about protecting workers from second-hand smoke.

"To say this is about workers is absolutely not true," Rukavina told supporters. "What this is about ... is your individual bias and prejudice about smoking."

However, Huntley said the measure should help reduce the 580 yearly deaths from second-hand smoke.

Rep. Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, argued that the vote would hurt small bars throughout rural Minnesota.

"You are going to vote them out of business tonight," Heidgerken told fellow representatives.

He also warned that a drop in bar business will mean fewer dollars going into charitable gambling such as pull tabs, which will hurt local fire departments, ambulance services, softball teams and other nonprofit groups that benefit from such games.


"The economic impact to them is going to be immense," Heidgerken said.

Huntley said experience shows bars probably will experience a drop in business right after the ban takes effect Oct. 1, but most should rebound. However, he said, some probably will go out of business.

Once Pawlenty signs the bill, expected early this week, Minnesota will become the 20th state to have such a law.

"It gets Minnesota back to other states that are leading," Huntley said. "It will improve people's health."

When Huntley left the House chamber after the lawmakers adjourned, he was greeted by applause from health-oriented lobbyists who stayed into the wee hours of Saturday to watch debate.

Also to help Huntley celebrate, Rep. Cy Thao, DFL-St. Paul, gave him a cigar. It went unsmoked.

How area representatives voted

Here is how area representatives voted on a statewide smoking ban:

- Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, no

- Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, yes

- Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, no

- Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, no

- Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, no

- Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, yes

- Dean Simpson, R-Perham, no

- Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, absent

How area senators voted

Here is how area senators voted on a statewide smoking ban:

- Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, no

- Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, yes

- Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, no

- Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, yes

- LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, absent

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com

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