State lawmakers as well as the interest groups Smoke Free Wisconsin and the state’s Tavern League reached a compromise on the proposed statewide smoking ban Wednesday afternoon.
The bill, if passed, will go into effect for the entire state on July 5, 2010. The proposal does make exceptions for existing cigar bars and tobacco shops, but unlike previously proposed bills, it does not include any exceptions for hotel rooms or hookah bars.
The bill will also allow municipalities and local governments around the state currently considering a smoking ban to move forward with their legislation, but when the state ban goes into effect, no local laws can be stricter than the state ban.
Individuals who break the law by smoking indoors will have to pay fines of no less than $100 but no more than $250, as long as the establishment made an effort to ask the individual to stop smoking or call the police.
If the establishment breaks the law by allowing an individual to smoke without asking them to stop, they will have to pay the fine.
“No legislation is perfect and no compromise will satisfy everyone but the compromise those of use here have agreed upon I feel is a good one and I will be urging my Senate colleagues to approve it,” said Senate President Fred Risser, D-Madison, author of the smoking ban.
Risser added the smoking ban was one of the biggest compromises the groups were able to reach.
“One of the biggest issue[s] was the starting date. I wanted it to take effect as soon as possible… others opposed any ban, or wanted to delay it as long as possible and still others wanted to extend phase-in periods for certain businesses,” Risser said.
Ultimately, however, Risser said he was satisfied with the compromise.
The state’s tavern league, which had previously been against any proposed smoking ban, was also in favor of the compromise.
“This has been quite a fight, especially after the negotiations over the last three years,” Tavern League President Rob Swearingen said. “This will be an adjustment to my members. We’re hoping that it will not be too much of a hardship on them.”
Swearingen added he hopes when the bill goes into effect, the state’s economy will have turned around, making the transition easier on the bars around the state.
Upon hearing of the compromise, Gov. Jim Doyle expressed his satisfaction for the new proposal.
“It is time for Wisconsin to take a step that improves our health, saves lives and helps people to break the addiction to tobacco,” Doyle said in a statement.
Doyle included a measure in his budget proposal to ban smoking in all public buildings that will ultimately be replaced by the Legislative bill.
Both the Assembly and the State held public hearings on the proposed ban early this week and are expected to vote on the proposal early next week.