Just getting a chance to put up this blog entry from Senator Northam now- they sent it in on Friday. Congratulations to all of those involved with this huge legislative accomplishment!
By Senator Ralph S. Northam
February 20, 2009
This is one of a series following the smoking ban bill as it becomes law:
So, we've scored a major victory with the restaurant smoking ban yesterday: my bill, SB1105, has passed a conference committee between the House and the Senate with only minor amendments, and is on its way to Governor Kaine for his signature. The votes in favor of the bill reported out of conference were 27-13 in the Senate, and 60-39 in the House, showing a great deal of bipartisan support for a concept that the vast majority of Virginians favor. The only real differences from the original compromise that was announced earlier were pushing the start date back until December 1st of this year, and allowing smoking in covered outdoor areas at times when roll-up walls are not in use.
This law will have significant health benefits for workers and patrons, and if Virginia trends the way other states and localities have after passing a smoking ban, it will also be good for business. I have always contended that this is both a health issue and a matter of protecting people's right to not be harmed by the actions of others. I am proud to have worked with the governor and others to make smoke-free restaurants a reality.
Some people will say that this bill isn't strong enough, and as a doctor, I can recognize that it is not perfect from a public health standpoint. However, I do believe that it is an exceptional accomplishment that we have found a smoking ban that works for a Commonwealth with a 400-year-old tobacco legacy, and crafted a law that is the strongest amongst any of the nation's top tobacco producing states. Hopefully this will be a model for our neighbors in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee as they consider similar action.
Also, for the readers curious about the rumors that came up a couple of weeks ago involving a certain Republican's 'tweet', I just wanted to make clear that I never contemplated leaving the Democratic Party. The premature twitter comment was just another example of hyper-partisanship: exactly what the Commonwealth doesn't need right now as we work toward hammering out a budget.
The Democratic Senate Caucus is moving forward, focusing on passing good bills.