Senate Passes Smoking Ban

Bingo Halls Now Exempted With Casinos, Taverns

The Senate gave final approval to a statewide smoking bill Tuesday after adding bingo halls to a growing list of places where smokers could still puff.

The House has passed a version with fewer exemptions and now must decide whether to accept the Senate version or insist on a conference committee to negotiate a compromise.

The Senate vote Tuesday was 21-14.

On Monday, senators voted to exempt casinos, racetracks and bars that don't sell much food. Cigar bars and the smoking lounge at Denver International Airport would also be exempt.

On Tues Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany carried the amendment to exempt small bars and taverns, saying that without the amendment, many of those businesses would be forced to close.

"These exemptions protect average Coloradans who took a chance on opening a business. Not only would a blanket ban put some people out of business, it also eliminates the ideas of private property rights and personal responsibility. While still not perfect, the bill is no longer the looming threat it was," said McElhany.

House sponsor Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, said he wants the House to reject the Senate changes so the ban can be strengthened in negotiations. Otherwise, advocates of a ban could place a stricter measure on the ballot this fall for voters to decide.

"If we're unable to do our jobs, I'm sure the citizens will do it for us in the fall," he said.

The Senate exempted bars where food accounts for 25 percent or less of annual revenue, hoping to help small, neighborhood operations whose owners say they would be hurt by a ban.

Ban supporters said that exemption could also cover larger bars if they met the 25 percent limit.

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