Oklahoma Gov. Fallin to lead smoking crackdown petition
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 7:30 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday said she will lead an initiative petition drive to let voters decide to crack down on smoking in public places.
The wording of the language is still being worked out, but supporters are hopeful it will be on the ballot in 2014.
Gov. Mary Fallin:
It could let local cities and towns pass ordinances stricter than state law regulating tobacco. Some have proposed an outright ban of smoking in public places, Fallin said.
She said both of her parents began smoking at a young age. Her father died before she got married or ran for office; her mother lived longer but had medical issues.
It has not been determined how the petition would be circulated nor its cost.
The petition would require 82,782 signatures if it called for a change in the law and 155,216 signatures if it called for a change in the state Constitution, for it to be put on the ballot, said Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz.
The action comes a day after a Senate panel voted down Senate Bill 36, which would have let cities and towns pass ordinances stricter than state law governing tobacco use.
Critics said the measure could create a geographic quilt of areas with varying rules on smoking, giving some businesses an advantage over others.
Leading the charge against the measure was Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, who said the bill was anything but local control.
Years ago, lawmakers passed a measure limiting smoking in public places, but allowed restaurants to build separately ventilated smoking rooms.
Critics of Senate Bill 36 said the measure was unfair to restaurant owners who made the investment, but could have to shut them down should cities pass ordinances requiring it.
The measure was originally assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said he would not hear the measure.
It was then reassigned to the General Government Committee, where it was voted down.
Fallin, who called for local control in her State of the State address earlier this month, said she was disappointed in Monday's action.
"Now, the tobacco interests may have won a battle yesterday, but they didn't win the war," Fallin said.
Oklahoma ranks fourth highest in the nation for smoking, she said.
Some 6,000 Oklahomans die each year from smoking-related illnesses, she said.
"Now is the time to take this issue to the people of Oklahoma," Fallin said. "We know how a majority of the people of Oklahoma feel about this issue."
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said he was surprised by the Senate panel's action.
The reaction has been amazing, he said.
"I think today there is a broad response of anger," Cornett said.
Johnson said he would be more supportive of an outright ban than letting cities and towns individually decide because it would create a level playing field.
Fallin said the issue was personal for her.
Both of her parents began smoking at a young age. Her father died before she got married and before she ran for office.
"My mother became very ill at the age of 73 with heart disease, had three heart surgeries," Fallin said.
"She later had all kinds of other issues from several strokes. She became bedridden. She had a feeding tube and diapers, and I was her caregiver for five years during her illness. Many of her issues were related to her lifestyle choices that she had made."
Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson, president of the Oklahoma Municipal League, said he hopes all Oklahomans will get on board.
Oklahoma is one of two states where state law prohibits cities and towns from enacting smoking ordinances more stringent than state law, Nicholson said.
Original Print Headline: Fallin to lead anti-smoking push
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
The "Grim Reaper" walks in the rotunda of the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The "Reaper" attended Gov. Mary Fallin's announcement for plans to put to a vote of the people proposed tobacco regulations aimed at reducing second-hand smoke. STEVE GOOCH/The Oklahoman