The bi-partisan bill to ban smoking in public places throughout the commonwealth of Kentucky took a step towards becoming a reality on Thursday as it passed the House Health and Welfare Committee by a vote of 10-3.
Kentucky House Bill 173 would create new sections of Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 438 to both define terms, and from the bill’s summary:
prohibit indoor smoking in businesses, places of employment, and other listed public places; exempt private residences, unless used for child care or adult day care; permit smoking in designated nonenclosed areas; require posting of “no smoking” signs at specified locations; permit local governments to adopt stricter regulations by ordinance; provide for enforcement by all peace officers and designated health department and local government employees; provide for the issuance of uniform citations for violations; require that employers and others not discriminate against persons reporting violations; provide for fines for violation; provide that fines go to the agency whose employee issued the citation; provide that no court costs or other fees be charged for violations; exempt certain research and manufacturing laboratories and agricultural buildings; amend KRS 344.040, relating to unlawful practices by an employer, to add reference to state law, local ordinance, or local board of health regulation relating to smoking; amend KRS 431.450, relating to uniform citations, to provide for issuing citation forms to health departments; authorize the Department of Kentucky State Police to create and issue uniform smoking violation citations; repeal various statutes permitting smoking in public buildings.
Despite clearing this first hurdle, it remains an uphill battle for the bill and its sponsors, Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, and Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington. This is the fourth consecutive year that Westrom has introduced such legislation, and already Senate President Robert Strivers, R-Manchester, has announced his opposition to the bill. Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the bill “is too far-reaching and impacts people’s liberty and freedom,” citing that it encroaches on the use of a legal product.
Denton acknowledged that the bill will face challenge from those who favor individual choice, to which she told reports “your personal choice ends when it infringes upon my health.” The bill has also garnered support from Gov. Steve Beshear.
In addition to the prohibitions on where a person could smoke, the bill provides for fines of $100 for the first offense and $250 for subsequent violations by individuals, while businesses would be hit with first time fines of $25o and up to $500 for a second violation, with the possibility of being fined up to $2,500 per violation in the same year as the first offense.
The next steps for the bill have not been announced yet.