Tobacco companies have spent nearly $70,000 in the first month of the 2014 General Assembly, according to lobbying data from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.
And the sponsor of a bill that would ban smoking in public places and some private businesses says that that money is sowing doubt over its chances in the House.
Rep. Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat, is the sponsor of the statewide smoking ban bill, which has languished on the House floor for over three weeks.
She says that tobacco lobbyists routinely influence rural legislators and leadership of both parties to avoid tackling the issue.
“This does not surprise me, because they want to make sure that legislators who have a tobacco farmer in their backyard, they want them to believe that any tobacco farmer will be greatly offended if they support a health issue related to smoke-free,” said Westrom.
Westrom says she has enough votes for the bill’s passage, but has been told by Democratic leadership that her count differs from theirs. She says the leaders claim there’s insufficient support for the measure.
Tobacco conglomerate Altria reported the second-highest lobbying expenditures in the first month of the General Assembly, at over $30,000.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo has denied any personal knowledge of tobacco lobbying in the Capitol over Westrom’s bill.