Fallin wires around lawmakers, launches anti-tobacco effort
BY World's Editorials Writers
Thursday, February 21, 2013
2/21/13 at 6:58 AM
It's a sad day and time when the governor has to wire around her own Legislature and resort to initiative petition to pursue legislation that a majority of Oklahomans support.
Gov. Mary Fallin had urged the Legislature to pass a tobacco-control bill that would have allowed cities and towns to adopt regulations that are tougher than state laws. Stronger tobacco controls are among objectives included in the governor's developing health initiative.
But, as usual, lawmakers sided with the tobacco industry and killed the legislation in committee. This in spite of the fact that a growing chorus of business and city leaders is calling for the local-control option.
Fallin, sadly, understands the risks of tobacco from first-hand experience. Both of her parents smoked from an early age and suffered health consequences as a result. Lawmakers could have taken steps that would help keep other families from experiencing similar tragedies, but chose to side with the industry that continues year after year to plump up their campaign coffers and shower them with gifts and meals.
Joined by health advocates and tobacco foes, Fallin announced she hopes to get a question on a statewide ballot by next year. To achieve that, backers would need 82,782 signatures to change state law, or 155,216 signatures to change the Constitution.
In killing the legislation, lawmakers argued it would be unfair to businesses that have invested in separately ventilated smoking rooms (which, by the way, don't completely do away with second-hand smoke). One way to address that issue would be to set up a rebate or tax credit program to allow them to recoup the costs.
Another argument was that such a measure would create a confusing array of local ordinances for businesses to have to meet. But that hasn't proven to be a big problem in the majority of states that allow local control.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, on hand for the announcement, said the response to the Senate panel's action has been strong. "I think today there is a broad response of anger," Cornett said.
In announcing the petition drive, the details of which are still being worked out, Fallin said: "Now is the time to take this issue to the people of Oklahoma. We know how a majority of the people of Oklahoma feel about this issue."
It's unfortunate that the expense and effort of a petition drive must be undertaken, but if the Legislature won't do its part, that's what has to happen.
Original Print Headline: Not over