Workplace smoking ban advances

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, expresses her views during a House floor session in the Alaska Capitol on March 30. LeDoux allowed a bill to ban smoking in workplace to advance on Tuesday. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

A state bill that would ban smoking in workplaces took a major step forward Tuesday night. The House Rules Committee passed a new version of Senate Bill 63.

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Committee chairwoman Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, an Anchorage Republican, had declined to schedule a hearing for most of the session.

LeDoux said she scheduled the hearing now to allow it to move forward to a vote on the House floor.

“I’ve got some questions about this entire bill,” LeDoux said. “But, nevertheless, in order to extend an olive branch to the people who really want this bill, (she is) trying to get this bill in a reasonable form so that we can get it to the floor.”

The committee changed the bill so that it won’t affect the use of electronic cigarettes or marijuana.

It also would allow municipalities to opt out of the workplace smoking ban. Currently, municipalities can opt in to bans.

Juneau Democratic Rep. Sam Kito III opposed the changes.

“We’ve got more than enough support for the bill as it sits, on the House floor,” Kito said. “I do not appreciate … having these changes being added at this late date in this forum on this particular bill.”

The Senate passed the bill last year. It will need to go back for another vote in the Senate if the House approves the changed version.