Partial rollback on indoor smoking ban lives on

CARSON CITY— Gambling and tourism industry lobbyists succeeded today in 11th-hour efforts to get the Nevada Assembly to endorse a partial rollback of a voter-approved ban on smoking in public places.

On a voice vote, the Assembly agreed to a conference committee plan to allow for smoking at certain trade conventions. The plan is being grafted onto AB309, which deals with the crime of stalking.

Assembly Judiciary Chairman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, said the amendment sought by the lobbyists seemed “touchy relative to germaneness” at first since AB309 is an anti-stalking bill, but ultimately was found to be OK by the lawmakers’ legal counsel.

The Senate was expected to also accept the conference report before the Legislature adjourns on Monday. With the Senate approval, AB309 will go to Gov. Jim Gibbons for his signature.

The partial rollback was sought after Anderson’s Judiciary Committee shelved SB372, which would have softened the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act passed by voters in 2006. Under SB372, smoking would have been allowed in bars that serve food as long as minors were restricted from entry.

The change endorsed by the Assembly on Sunday had been sought by lobbyists for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority because some groups with tobacco industry ties had canceled Nevada conventions after the smoking ban approved by voters in 2006 took effect.

At an earlier hearing, LVCVA Senior Vice President Terry Jicinsky testified that the smoking ban has cost the convention authority $41 million in business. Jicinsky said his organization lost cigar and smoking industry trade shows to New Orleans because of the law that limits smoking. But he added he has a commitment from the trade shows to return to Las Vegas if legislators amend the law to allow smoking only during these types of conventions.

Earlier in the week, there was attempt to attach the failed measure to AB229, a bill dealing with fire-safe cigarettes. But the bill sponsor, Assemblyman John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said he told other lawmakers that wouldn’t be a friendly amendment to his bill.

Anderson had said Saturday that he probably would along with the amendment to the stalking bill, even though he stood in the way of the original SB372.

“It’s the section of the bill that was least controversial,” Anderson said of the amendment. “The only people that would be going to the conventions would be smokers.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Ed Vogel contributed to this report.

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