Sen. Jim Buck told a crowd of people at a Third House session in Kokomo Saturday that he opposes legislation to impose a statewide smoking ban in Indiana.
Buck joined Rep. Mike Karickhoff and Rep. Heath VanNatter at the session on the Indiana University Kokomo campus sponsored by the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.
With more than 250 people in attendance, many of whom were there to discuss right-to-work legislation, the three lawmakers talked about the smoking ban and a
legislative change in school choice being advocated by Karickhoff.
During his opening remarks, Buck said state Republican Party leaders want to pass legislation for right-to-work, a statewide smoking ban and stiffer penalties for human trafficking before Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
“Historically I have voted against a statewide smoking ban,” Buck said, “locals can pass an ordinance. Local units of government want the state to pass a ban and the state wants local government to do it.”
Buck said he prefers passage of local ordinances to ban smoking.
He said people want to ban smoking, but do not want restrictions on the sale or use of tobacco.
However, a group of legislators has proposed limiting the sale of tobacco products to the hours in which a curfew is in effect for teenagers, he said. Buck said that would prevent the sale of tobacco to minors.
“We can’t eliminate smoking, but we can regulate it,” Buck said.
VanNatter said he voted against the statewide smoking ban in 2011.
“It comes down to the exemptions,” he said. “There are some that want a ban everywhere. Most lawmakers want to see some exemptions included in the bill.”
VanNatter said he supports exemptions from the smoking ban for private clubs and bars.
Karickhoff said he supported passage of the smoking ordinance in Kokomo as a member of the common council and he is now in favor of a statewide ban.
“Employees have a right to work in a place where there is no smoke,” he said.
Though Karickhoff conceded the state may lose revenue if restrictions are imposed on tobacco sales, but he said there also would be the potential for savings in health care.
“Revenue is an issue; we collect a lot in taxes. A study showed there would be a loss in revenues, but didn’t project the savings in medical costs because people would be healthier,” he said.
Karickhoff said his proposed bill to require public school systems to accept transfer students may not get a hearing in committee.
He said although the legislation has the support of the committee chairman and Tony Bennett, superintendent of the Indiana Department of Education, the stalemate over right-to-work legislation is delaying action on other bills.
Karickhoff said charter schools are required to accept any student who applies for enrollment and the same requirement should be made for public schools.
“The concept was public schools would accept every student,” he said. “Some have established criteria so they don’t have to accept every student. The same standards should be in place for students going from a public to a charter school and for students going from one public school to another.”
Karickhoff said a school should determine the number of students it will accept and if more students apply than there are spaces available there should be a “blind” draw.
Buck said he would vote no if the legislation came to the Senate for passage.
“Charter schools can go across county lines,” he said. “This would result in public schools encouraging poorer students to go to a high-performing school.”
Buck said the implications of the legislation could lower the standards for all school systems.
VanNatter said he supports the legislation.
He said his legislation to require drug tests for people to receive welfare benefits has passed in a House committee and is eligible for action on the House floor.
The bill would end unemployment and welfare benefits for any person who tests positive for drugs through a urine screen.