Ballard’s (and maybe Daniels’) Lack of Leadership in Smoking Issue

Whatever you think of the smoking ban, you had to come up scratching your head at how Greg Ballard handled, or didn’t, the process. Offering up a backroom veto promise was just not leadership and is definitely inconsistent with most stated city policy. The Indianapolis Business Journal says this:

But a handful of councilors aren’t the only ones standing in the way. Mayor Greg Ballard must come around as well. For the mayor to be seen as obstructionist on this issue puts him in an awkward spot.

His position is inconsistent with the city’s SustainIndy initiative, which touts the importance the city places on clean air and, to quote its Web site, “working with private partners to ensure that our community remains vibrant and healthy.”

A veto threat that lets councilors walk away from a bill that has gone that far is just not thinking it through. 

It’s too late for the city to lead on this issue, but it can avoid falling further behind. If, as has been reported, Ballard isn’t behind the effort because of his reluctance to ban smoking in private clubs, such as those geared toward military veterans, he should forge a compromise the City-County Council can pass and he can sign.

Did no one on his staff tell him that bills can be redrafted? None of his many wealthy Barnes & Thornburg legal counsel could clue him in that they could have written some kind of caveat for private clubs. It doesn’t take a Colonel to figure that out. Hell, Gomer coulda put that together.

Most bewildering is that if he had offered some leadership on this issue, he’d look like a freaking hero right now. But the Colonel just doesn’t think like that.

For our two cents, we think this snafu makes it high time that the Governor and General Assembly start looking at this issue. Seriously. Here is the logic: If tobacco is a controlled substance that State Excise polices, which it is and since the largest objections to the non-smoking ban are certain bar-owners, also governed by excise. And under present state law a bar-owner has to pay an additional premium to excise for the right to sell tobacco in his bar, what is called a tobacco stamp. Then isn’t this really an excise issue?

Why can’t some wise state representative draft a bill that would offer an all-21-and-over establishment (so no family room and no under 21 employees) the ability to pay a sizable premium to excise in order to be a smoking establishment. Thus a market-driven proposal.

If said establishment feels like passing that cost on to their customers and feels smoking is truly needed for their customers, then they have an avenue to satisfy their customers. Worried about some county objections to a ban? Let a county opt out of the ban, but keep the license premium. A portion of the money taken in from the premium and the penalties could be channeled to the state’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund.

It is completely conceivable that you would see a very sizable percentage of establishments that would decide to not pay the premium and go non-smoking for the growing non-smoking clientele.

So if it is a state issue, where has the Governor’s leadership been. He likes to talk about fitness and wellness initiatives. Here is one in his own backyard.

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