Topeka — Kansas House members gave first-round approval on Tuesday to a bill extending the 2010 statewide smoking ban to include state-owned casinos.
Legislators said the bill would expand the state law on smoking in private businesses to cover the Dodge City casino and those approved for Wyandotte and Sumner counties.
Final House action is scheduled for today. Approval would send the bill to the Senate.
Supporters said extending the ban makes the state play by the same rules that apply to private businesses by improving the indoor air quality of the casinos, as well as businesses and other government buildings already in the law.
“This bill makes public policy more consistent,” said Rep. Kelly Meigs, a Lenexa Republican.
Much of the debate hinged on an amendment that would have effectively repealed the ban.
The amendment, defeated by a 69-51 margin, would have exempted private businesses that wanted to allow smoking and put up a conspicuous sign saying smoking was permitted.
“We passed this in this body because we love to tell people what to do,” said Rep. Clay Aurand, a Courtland Republican. “I honestly don’t care what adults do in their businesses. I don’t care if they smoke. I don’t care if they take off their clothes and dance.”
Many freshmen conservative Republicans said they were elected in November over the smoking ban and that Kansans don’t want government interfering with their rights.
“We need to get government off our backs,” said Rep. Charlotte O’Hara, an Overland Park Republican.
Defenders of the ban said it serves the greater public good.
Rep. Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City Democrat, said the cost to businesses to comply with the law is outweighed by the benefits to Kansans who aren’t exposed to smoke while at work, eating or patronizing other establishments.
“Individual freedoms stop when the freedom endangers others,” Burroughs said.
The managers of the three casinos opposed the bill when the House Committee on Health and Human Services heard testimony. Casinos argue that banning smoking will hurt their ability to make a return on their investment. The state Division of Budget estimated, based on casino projections, that the ban would reduce estimated revenues owed to the state and local governments by $16 million.