Smoking sneak

Last minute tactic

After the first 102 days of the 2011 Nevada Legislature—and just 18 days before it adjourns for the year—a bill that promotes smoking was introduced by the Assembly’s budget committee, called Ways and Means.

Assembly Bill 571 was introduced by the committee 52 days after the deadline for committee introductions, according to this year’s legislative calendar. In the history compiled by the legislative staffers for each bill, 571 is described as having been “DECLARED EXEMPT.” But committee chair Debbie Smith of Washoe County said it was not declared exempt from the deadlines because “Ways and Means bills don’t have to meet the deadlines if there is a fiscal piece to the bill.”

The fiscal impact to the bill stems from a clause calling for a $15,000 study “regarding the implementation” of the state no-smoking law.

A study released by University of Nevada, Reno researchers this month found that the “partial statewide smoking ban has resulted in a statistically significant reduction in hospital admissions and cost savings to taxpayers and insurance plans that dwarf the purported economic damages to businesses claimed by opponents of the ban …”

Under a voter-approved measure, small bar and tavern owners believe they have been placed at a competitive disadvantage with casinos. Under the existing law “areas within casinos where loitering by minors is already prohibited” are exempt from the smoking ban. That means casino bars are exempt from the ban while free-standing bars are not.

But the last-minute legislation does not extend the ban to casino bars, it exempts the free-standing bars. In 2009, casinos supported an earlier effort by small-bar owners to change the law out of concern that if it failed, the law would be extended to casinos.

Committee introductions of bills are sometimes used to conceal their sponsors.