Trade group tries to soften smoking ban

CARSON CITY — A plan to roll back a voter-approved ban on smoking in public places died weeks ago in the Nevada Legislature, but lobbyists for the gambling and tourism industries are using the last few days of the 2009 session to try to bring it back to life.

The original bill, state Senate Bill 372, would have softened the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, passed by voters in 2006, by fine-tuning just where smoking should be prohibited. Lobbyists wanted to allow smoking in bars that serve food as long as minors are restricted from entry, but the bill died when it failed to pass out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

That didn’t stop lobbyists from reviving part of the plan on Saturday to allow smoking at tobacco trade conventions. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority sought the change because some groups with tobacco industry ties canceled Nevada conventions after the ban took effect.

The amendment was suggested for Assembly Bill 309, which deals with the crime of stalking.

“I looked at every single bill on the list,” said Jim Wadhams, lobbyist for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “The stalking bill has to do with crimes, and the amendment has to be on a bill that deals with the criminal statutes.”

The first attempt to add the smoking provision onto the stalking bill was blocked because legal counsel said the smoking issue was not germane to the bill’s purpose.

But late Saturday, legislative lawyers revised their opinion and said the amendment could work because both the bill and amendment deal with crimes.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, chairwoman of a subcommittee considering the plan, said she may not sign on to the change.

“I don’t have a problem with that part of the bill, but I don’t like the way it was handled,” Parnell said.

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