Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Smoke-Free Hearing....Later Today

Just waiting on the House of Representatives to wrap up so the State Affairs Committee can meet and have a hearing on Smoke-Free Texas. We just wrapped up a great press conference and I can really feel the momentum building. Stay tuned....

5:37 The House wrapped up around 5:15 so the State Affairs Committee should be getting started anytime time. Members are filing in and taking their seats.

5:40 Chairman Solomons calls the committee to order....

5:46 House Author Myra Crownover lays out her bill. HB 5 Smoke-Free Texas. "This is about protecting the workers in the state of Texas..."

5:55 Retired AHA CEO Cass Wheeler is now addressing the committee. "Passing this bill will reduce heart disease and reduce health care costs.

5:59 A restaurant owner from Amarillo is speaking against the bill saying its a personal rights issue, not a health issue.

State Rep Lucio counters by saying when people smoke indoors, they are imposing their choice on others.

6:06 Austin restaurant owner Bick Brown testifies in favor or smoke-free Texas. He made the decision to go smoke-free on his own, and called it one of the best business decision he's made. It has been beneficial for his customers and employees.

6:11 A bartender and college student from College Stations says she only had limited job options and bartending was one of them. College Station was not smoke-free when she began but now, wouldn't have it any other way. "Smoke-free laws don't hinder rights, they enable them. I now have the right to work in a healthy environment"

6:19 Former El Paso City Councilmember talks about when he helped pass the ordinance in El Paso. He said at first he was not supportive, then he studied the issue. He looked at the data on secondhand smoke and the data on bar and restaurant revenue. "I wanted to be on the right side of the issue even if I wasn't on the winning side, and that's why I supported it"

6:36 Flower Mound Mayor testifies in favor of smoke-free Texas talking about passing her ordinance. "We want to keep big government out of Flower Mound, but this is a smart law that is good for public health"

6:56 Former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd is now testifing for smoke-free air. He was Mayor when Austin passed its first ordinance, just covering restaurants. He said most business owners opposed it at first, now they love it. Later the Austin citizens, not the city goverment, approved an even stronger ordinance covering bars and other workplaces.

7:07 They are going back and forth allowing one person to speak in favor of the bill, then one person against it.

7:10 Dr. Phil Huang is now testifying for the bill. He is now the Travis County Medical Director but was the former Preventive Medicine Specialist at Texas Department Of Health.

Even limited exposure to secondhand has an adverse effect on the cardiovascular system.

7:27 We are mostly hearing from the opposition now. Tobacco shop owners and cigar bar owners.

7:48 Testimony continues and the arguments the same. Basically it boils down to this: We believe all workers deserve smoke-free. Opponents believe the rights of smokers, to smoke in indoor workplaces, outweighs all other rights.

7:52 I personally think that the committee is getting tired of hearing from the tobacco industry on this issue. Especially considering the long history of Big Tobacco to lie and mislead consumers, the general public and Congress on the health impact of their product.

8:06 Testimony on Smoke-Free Texas has concluded. House Author Myra Crownover is now providing closing remarks on her bill.

8:16 Smoke-Free bill has been left pending. Now we have two identical bills in a House Committee and a Senate Committee that need to be voted on. Go to www.SmokeFreeTexasNOW.org to tell your lawmakers to support Smoke-Free Texas.


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