Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Simmering on the back burner

More on the possible smoking ban

What could be the final phase of Howard County's latest fight over smoking in bars and restaurants began last night as the County Council heard testimony on a bill that would allow smoking where it is permitted now but ban it from all new establishments.

Anti-smoking and health advocates and County Executive James N. Robey oppose the bill, though it appears to have majority support. It was sponsored by east Columbia Democrat David A. Rakes and has won endorsements from the five-member body's two Republicans, Chairman Christopher J. Merdon and Charles C. Feaga.

The remaining two Democrats, Guy Guzzone and Ken Ulman, favor an earlier bill sponsored by Robey and Ulman that would ban all smoking in all public places.
Not much to report. Anti-smoking activistscriticizedd the bill in typical, non-newsworthy fashion, while restaurant and bar owners applauded similarly. There is, however, one quote worthy of a pithy, sarcastic comment:
Tobacco industry lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano called Rakes' bill "a balanced, common-sense, equitable proposal." He said Robey's proposed smoking ban would amount to a "taking without compensation." Bereano noted that in 20 years of testifying before the County Council, "this is the first time I'm testifying in favor of a smoking bill."
Balanced? Do lobbyists really know of such things? Also, of course it’s the first time he’s testifying in favor of such a bill. It’s the first time he’s had a choice between two of them, and given the alternative—an outright ban—this is his only hope.

Anyway, I’d put money on the Rakes bill passing without executive veto and the full ban being pushed back another few years (at least until the state bans all indoor smoking, which is really best and fairest way to address this).

Post Script: As I was about to publish this post, I went back to re-read the article and noticed this at the very bottom:
The latest round in the smoking debate followed a hearing Monday night as anti-smoking advocates and business interests opposed to strict limits waited through a lengthy hearing on a bill to provide a cable television franchise to Verizon, which would provide competition for Comcast in the county.

The new franchise is supported by Dean Smits, the county's cable administrator, and by the chairman of the county's cable advisory committee, Martin Stein. Comcast and cable industry representatives argue that a new franchise may give Verizon an unfair advantage.
This is the best news I've heard in years! If you're like me, you're tired of the unfettered monopoly and hegemonic status of our cable overlords, Comcast, and even if you don't decide to switch companies, you'll still benefit from competition (lower prices, Comcast actually responding to your needs, etc.).

But what's this mularky about Verizon getting an unfair advantage? Hmmm, in order for another cable provider to enter this market it has to get approval from the county council. Doesn't sound like Comcast has enjoyed an unfair advantage of it's own for quite some time, does it?

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