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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Senate postpones state smoking ban

[media-credit name=’NATALIE WEINBERGER / Herald Photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]assembly_nw416[/media-credit]The Wisconsin State Senate held session Tuesday, voting on a number of legislative initiatives but surprisingly not voting on the highly anticipated Smoke-Free Dining Act.

The contentious subject of recent widespread discussion and debate, the Smoke-Free Dining Act was withheld from Senate consideration Tuesday, as Republican sponsors decided to postpone its vote in order to further revise its provisions and improve its chances of passing.

According to Mike Prentiss, spokesperson for State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, AB 414's sponsors now plan to confer with Gov. Jim Doyle in hopes of generating a workable compromise capable of garnering the Democratic governor's support.


"It was no real secret the governor was not wild about the bill," Prentiss said, adding a successful Senate vote Tuesday and a subsequent approval by the Assembly would have still led to a Doyle veto.

Dismissing the bill as nothing but a sneaky strategic measure, Democrats claim AB 414 would preemptively enact a weak statewide smoking-ban standard in order to prevent stricter city ordinances from being passed in the future.

Though Republican lawmakers continue to stand by their bill, pointing to its effort to both restrict smoking and protect business owners, they are aware of the current version's controversial nature and dim outlook.

As it is currently written, AB 414, authored by Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, would enact a statewide law restricting smoking in restaurants, the dining areas of bars and most bowling alleys, but would stop short of applying to all workplaces.

However, a Democratic version of a smoking ban, the Smoke-Free Workplace Act, would prohibit smoking in all Wisconsin workplaces.

In other legislative actions, Senate Joint Resolution 33 was approved 23 to 10 Tuesday by the Senate. SJR 33, also know as the "Frankenstein Veto Ban," aims to limit the governor's partial-veto power by removing the right to selectively cross out words from biennial budgets.

Authored by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, the Frankenstein Veto Ban was written in response to Gov. Doyle's allegedly questionable practices regarding the 2005-07 biennial budget.

"Essentially what the governor did was cross out 752 words to create one sentence allowing the new appropriation of $427 million that the Legislature never intended," Harsdorf spokesperson Jack Jablonski said, adding the resulting 20-word sentence spanned the length of over a page and the "2" of the $427 million was in actuality extracted from the year "2005".

Conversely, Doyle defends the partially vetoed budget as a protective measure to Wisconsin citizens.

"The governor used his veto power to provide property-tax relief and to fund education," Doyle press secretary Melanie Fonder said, adding Doyle did not use any veto powers not previously used by other governors.

If passed, SJR 33 would ensure governors only veto entire sentences in an all-or-nothing style. The resolution will soon face an Assembly vote, after which it must pass both houses of the next legislative session as well as a public referendum before being added as an amendment to the state constitution in, at the earliest, 2007.

Additionally, Senate Bill 174 was passed in the Senate Tuesday, moving inmates one step closer to being able to drink wine in prison as part of a church ceremony.

According to the office of SB 174's Assembly author, Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, the bill would align state law with federal procedures allowing clergy persons to administer up to two ounces of wine to Wisconsin inmates.

Passing in a narrow 18 to 15 vote, the bill is causing some legislators to consider its potential complications.

"Correctional officers had concerns of the possible effects of introducing alcohol into prisons," Prentiss said, adding Sen. Fitzgerald did not vote for the initiative because "it might lead to problems within the prison population" such as the relapses of inmates with histories of substance abuse.

Others, however, dismiss these concerns as unfounded.

Strachota's office pointed to the churches across the nation attended by recovering alcoholics without complication.

SB 174 must be approved in an Assembly vote, expected to take place soon, and receive the governor's signature before being adopted into law.

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