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Fri March 7, 2014
Kentucky Statewide Smoking Ban Push Stopped By Democratic House Leaders, Bill Sponsor Says
FRANKFORT — The sponsor of a bill that would ban smoking in public places and some private businesses in Kentucky says House Democratic leadership has killed the measure.
Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, says a combination of pressure from lobbying groups and political concerns of colleagues with tobacco farms in their districts were behind the bill's failure.
“Some of our leadership polled here on the floor, they weren’t convinced that we had the votes. And, quite frankly, I just don’t think they wanted to risk it in case it was an uncomfortable vote for somebody," Westrom says.
Westrom says some lawmakers were likely “scared” by lobbyists.
Tobacco companies have spent handsomely this year, at $70,000 in lobbying expenditures in the first month of the session.
But House Speaker Greg Stumbo denies he blocked the bill. But he says many members were concerned about its effect on this fall’s House elections.
“I think that it could do much better in a non-election year," says Stumbo, a Democrat. "Quite frankly, a lot of members that we spoke with, both Democrats and Republicans, didn’t really want to address the issue in an election year, and that became more and more of a concern that spread through the general membership.”
Westrom agrees, and says that the bill will likely have better chances next year.