Friday, June 24, 2011

Smoke-Free Texas: Slim to None

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6/24/11

And Slim may have just left town...

With the Special Session winding to a close prospects aren’t looking good for smoke-free workplace legislation. For a realistic chance of getting the smoke-free bill passed into law, it needed to have been passed by either the House or Senate today. Both the House and Senate have adjourned without taking action on it.

There is an outside chance the Senate will consider this bill on Monday so we’ll see what happens then. But there were plenty of positives throughout the session, especially on the House side. The smoke-free bill was passed from committee 8-2, it had around 80 co-authors and was eventually passed by the House as an amendment.

I encourage you to check out the debate on the smoke-free amendment. House and Senate rules don’t allow us to post floor debate video from their archives, but you can watch it on your own. Just follow these instructions:

*You Must have Real Player to View*

1. Go to http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/chamber/,

2. Find the date that says 5/20/2011 and click on the link that says 1:30pm-1:09am.

3. This video covers over 11 hours for floor action. The smoke-free debate begins at the 7:41:25 mark and ends at 8:47:26.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Smoke-Free Texas: Is Today the Day?

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6/22/2011


The Texas Senate could take up and consider the smoke-free workplace law as soon as today. A version of this bill was passed from the Texas House during the Regular Session but was defeated by a Senate panel in the final hours of the session.

The Special Session has given new life to this issue but the clock is ticking – the Special Session can’t go past next Wednesday. In short, we need the Senate to pass this measure today for a realistic chance of it becoming law.

You can click here to email Texas lawmakers asking them to support smoke-free workplaces.

If it is passed by the Senate today, it would still need to clear the House. I will be providing updates here throughout the day and will live blog if there is debate on the smoke-free bill.

Brian Bowser

Update: 9:50  am

The Senate goes in at 2pm today, so nothing will happen before then.  On Monday the Senate Health and Human Services committee passed the bill 5-4.  The 5 YES votes were:

Chair Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso)
Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio)
Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas)
Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo)

The 4 No votes were:

Sen. Robert Deuell (R-Greenville)
Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place)
Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville)
Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston)

Update 2:17 pm

Senate should convene soon.  We've heard the bill concerning the Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency  could come up, but the Smoke-Free bill could also come up.  We are in wait and see mode.  If you're by a TV in Austin you can watch it on channel 22 (Time Warner Cable).  If you have Grande or another provider just try all of the local community access channels. 

Or stream it from here: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/bin/live.php

Update 3:35 pm

Senator Carona is laying out his TWIA bill which will reform the Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency.  This issue is one of the primary reasons for the Special Session.

We have heard several Senators that support Smoke-Free Texas are not in Austin today, making a vote on smoke-free less likely today. 

Update 4:05 pm


Several Senators have officially been excused from today's session due to important business in their district.  It’s important that this bill be heard and voted on by a majority of Senators so the question will not be called today.

This severely weakens the chance of passing the smoke-free bill during this special session.  There is still a chance it could come up at the end of the week or over the weekend so stay tuned to this blog and sign up to get breaking news alerts here:  http://www.yourethecure.org/.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Status Quo Remains for PE and Health

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6/20/2011

Last Thursday was a big day for PE and Health in Texas schools. Two bills were being debated that dealt with school curriculum and there were opportunities to both improve and weaken PE and Health courses. In the end no major changes were passed and the status quo will remain largely intact.

An effort was made to increase the high school graduation requirement for PE by a half credit. We supported this effort lead by Rep. Carol Alvarado. Representatives Jason Isaac and Eddie Lucio III were also key champions that almost turned the House in favor of supporting this increase for PE. You can watch the video below to view the debate and click here to thank lawmakers that voted YES on increasing PE.


Watch live video from yourethecuretx on Justin.tv

In the end the House voted 73-65 against increasing PE by a half credit in high school. But click on the link to thank our champions and your House member if he or she voted YES.

Luckily no attempts were made that would have weakened PE and Health standards. You’re efforts in the past weeks helped educated members about the importance of Coordinated School Health plans, Physical Fitness Assessments, and the importance of PE and Health in school.

We will continue to work towards improving the quality and quantity of PE and Health programs in Texas and appreciate your continued support.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Texas Senate Must Act Now

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06/15/2011

Yesterday the Smoke-Free Texas Coalition (of which the American Heart Association is a part of) released the following statement regarding smoke-free legislation. 
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Texas Senate Must Act Now to Ensure Passage of  Smoke-Free Law in 2011

Coalition urges immediate action by Health and Human Services Committee on Senate Bill 28

AUSTIN – The Smoke-Free Texas Coalition and numerous other supporters of smoke-free workplace legislation are actively urging members of the Senate Health and Human Service Committee to take immediate action on SB 28, legislation proposing a statewide law to eliminate smoking in indoor areas of bars and restaurants across the state. The bill, authored by Senator Rodney Ellis, was referred on Monday, June 13 to the Committee.

HB 46 – the companion bill filed by Representative Myra Crownover – passed out of the House Appropriations Committee 19-1 on Saturday, June 4. The Health and Human Services Committee must take a vote on SB 28 before there is any further movement on HB 46.

“The support and rapid action by the Texas Senate is critical to the successful passage of a statewide smoke-free law in 2011,” said Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, Smoke-Free Texas supporter and founder and chairman of the Cooper Clinic. “Before HB 46 can move any further, the Senate must step up and do their part by considering this legislation that is vital to the health of Texas employees and customers.”

A smoke-free workplace law will save thousands of lives and millions of dollars for Texans, including $31 million in taxpayer dollars for the 2012-2013 biennium by eliminating the Medicaid costs that result from exposure to secondhand smoke in bars and restaurants.

In addition, there is widespread support for this legislation from numerous organizations, business groups, musicians, faith leaders and everyday Texans from across the political spectrum. A January 2011 survey of Texas voters conducted by Baselice and Associates found that 70 percent of those surveyed support a smoke-free workplace law that prohibits smoking in all indoor workplaces and public facilities. The poll also revealed that 63 percent of those surveyed indicated they would be more likely to vote for a state legislator who supported a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law.

“There is clearly strong support from Texans for a smoke-free workplace law,” said Dr. Cooper. “The Senate owes these Texans a vote on this issue and must make this a priority in the special session.”

Thousands of Texans are directly or indirectly affected by the harmful effects of secondhand smoke exposure in the workplace. Without a statewide smoke-free workplace law, millions of Texans will never be protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.

“Texas is closer than ever to passing this legislation thanks to the tireless work and dedication of many of our state’s leaders and others who have actively voiced their support for this legislation over the past several months,” said Dr. Cooper. “Now is the time for the Senate to take action to ensure this life-saving legislation is passed in Texas.”

###

Smoke-Free Texas is a broad coalition of organizations who believe all Texas employees have the right to breathe clean indoor air. Because science tells us that secondhand smoke kills, we support a statewide law to protect Texans from the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure in the workplace. Our members include the American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, LIVESTRONG and the Texas Parent Teacher Association. Visit our website for more information at www.smokefreetexas.org. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter at www.Facebook.com/SmokeFreeTexas and www.Twitter.com/SmokeFreeTexas.




Tuesday, June 14, 2011

All Eyes on Texas Senate

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06/14/2011

Yesterday afternoon the smoke-free workplace proposal was sent to the Senate Health and Human Services committee which now must take fast action to beat the clock of the current “Special Session”. After swiftly being passed by a House committee all eyes are now on the Senate to pass this lifesaving bill.

Please click here to support Smoke-Free Texas today!

The good news is that we have a hearing scheduled….the unfortunate news is that it has been scheduled for next Monday, June 20, which will put the bill in serious jeopardy due to time considerations.

The Special Session cannot last longer than 30 days but can be (and often is) cut shorter than that by the Governor. Time is of the essence as the clock is ticking on the Special Session meaning fast action is critical.

We are trying to secure the support of every legislator and key state leaders like the Governor and Lt. Governor who can help push this issue forward.

Help us keep the pressure on by taking action on the link above and sharing this short link with friends and on twitter: http://bit.ly/iHYqGL.

Thanks for your continued help!

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Texas Senate: Tag, You’re It

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06/08/2011

On Saturday morning a House committee approved the Smoke-Free workplace bill 19-1, now it’s time for the Senate to act. While it might seem like a game of tag under the Capitol dome, time is running out if the Senate doesn’t act fast. There has been no movement on this issue from the Senate since the start of the Special Session.

Click here to tell Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Texas Lawmakers to take up and consider smoke-free workplace legislation, now!

In fact, over the last six years, the Texas Senate has never voted on this issue. Not even once. Outside of a handful of Senators that have spoken out publically, 31 of the most powerful people in Texas have never taken a position on the most pressing health issue in our state.

Removing secondhand smoke from workplaces would reduce heart disease and stroke in our state while saving taxpayers at least $31 million in Medicaid expenses every two years.

The entire House and Senate still need to vote on this issue before the special session comes to an end. Take action using the link above to tell lawmakers the time is now for Smoke-Free Texas.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Austin American Statesman Endorses Smoke-Free Texas

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6/7/2011

The Austin American Statesman ran an editorial in today’s edition once again supporting efforts to make Texas workplaces smoke-free. You can check out the piece by clicking here. This is just another in the long line of endorsements and positive editorials from major Texas periodicals. Here’s a segment, but click on the link above for the whole piece and tell us what you think in the comments section.

An indoor smoking ban does not outlaw smoking, as opponents are fond of claiming. Furthermore, smoking indoors is not a "right" despite assertions to the contrary. And even it were, that "right" would have to be balanced against the rights of others to breathe clean air.

A growing number of Texas municipalities, including Austin, have long since adopted indoor smoking bans. San Angelo voters — among the most conservative in the state — approved an indoor smoking ban by a whopping 60 percentage points when 30 percent of the city's registered voters participated in a 2010 referendum.

So the science supports a smoking ban, and so do Texans if given a voice and a choice.

Update 06/08/2011

This morning the San Antonio Express-News followed suite with a positive editorial. They specifically mention one state Senator that lead the efforts to derail the bill during the Regular Session.:


The opposition of Sen. Deuell is tragic for public health.
Express-News Editorial Board
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

As a physician, state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, is certainly familiar with the dictum that comes from ancient Latin, “First, do no harm.” If only he would follow that dictum when the Legislature is in session.

Last month, lawmakers in Austin had an opportunity to finally pass a measure that bans smoking in most Texas bars and restaurants. More than 30 Texas cities, including San Antonio, have comprehensive smoke-free ordinances.

A statewide ban would establish uniform standards that protect the health of workers and the public. It would also bring Texas into line with 29 other states with comprehensive smoking bans. During a session marked by budget concerns, the smoking ban carried a bottom-line benefit.

According to the fiscal analysis attached to the measure, the statewide ordinance could save the state $31 million in Medicaid costs during the next biennium. Supporters of the measure claim the savings would actually be in the hundreds of millions.

Yet Deuell led efforts among House and Senate conferees to strip the smoking ban from a state spending bill. He justified his opposition by stating he had constitutional issues with a statewide law. That’s hard to fathom, especially for a family practitioner who has undoubtedly seen the health consequences of secondhand smoke.

Read the rest here: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/editorials/article/Lege-should-pass-smoking-ban-bill-1414095.php#ixzz1OhwkCjhU

Monday, June 6, 2011

Smoke-Free Takes a Step

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6/6/2011

Over the weekend a House committee approved the smoke-free workplace proposal that you’ve helped us fight for over the last five months. The committee voted 19-1 to pass this measure which would remove smoking from all bars and restaurants in the state.

Thanks to everyone who took action on Friday and Saturday before the committee vote. If you didn’t take action you can still ask your lawmakers to support Smoke-Free Texas by clicking here.

You’ve helped us come this far, now help us finish the job. With less time to work during this Special Session we will need fast action from both the House and Senate. The time is now to take smoking outside and save thousands of lives and millions of dollars associated with secondhand smoke. Thanks again for your support, and stay tuned for more on Smoke-Free Texas.

Sincerely,

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator

Smoke-Free Texas: Staying Alive

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6/3/2011

A Special Legislative Session in Texas has given new life to the smoke-free workplace proposal that you’ve helped us fight for over the last five months. Yesterday the smoke-free bill was filed in both the Texas House and Senate and could be heard in a Committee as soon as tomorrow.

Help us capitalize on this new opportunity by telling lawmakers that the time is now to take smoking outside and reduce the heart disease and stroke associated with secondhand smoke. Click here to take action today!

You helped us pass this measure from the House in late May. However, that measure was not adopted by the Senate. Now, we have another chance to convince lawmakers that everyone deserve a smoke-free workplace.

If you think lawmakers should try to save thousands of lives and millions of dollars in health costs by asking smokers to step outside, click on the link above and ask for a Smoke-Free workplace law in Texas.

Sincerely,

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator

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