SACRAMENTO — The Assembly, which this week voted to ban smoking on public transportation within California, has ducked taking action on another smoking curb much closer to home--in its own chamber.
Politicians and smoke-filled rooms traditionally have gone hand in hand, but Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro) wants to ban smoking during floor sessions. His resolution has left some of his colleagues not just puffing but fuming.
"The air quality in that chamber is hazardous to everyone's health," Felando said Wednesday. But Felando said he has been unable to persuade the Rules Committee to send his anti-smoking resolution to the full Assembly for a vote.
Assemblyman Tom Bane (D-Tarzana), chairman of the Rules Committee, said Felando's proposal has kindled emotional opposition. He singled out Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte), known for lighting up long brown cigarettes at her Assembly desk.
"I'd say if it weren't for Sally we'd go ahead and hear it," acknowledged Bane, whose committee in June considered the resolution but declined to take any action.
She Offers Thanks
When Tanner heard the suggestion that her opposition is bottling up the anti-smoking proposal, she sighed: "Thank God, if it is."
"I resent the resolution. This is a huge room. The windows are open. . . . Historically, people have been allowed to smoke here and I totally resent (Felando's resolution)," said Tanner, who is among a half-dozen or so Assembly smokers.
The right to smoke in the Assembly chamber is, she said, "a matter of principle. There was no such rule when I ran for election."
First elected in 1978, Tanner chairs the Toxics Materials Committee and has championed legislation to clean up the smoggy air in her San Gabriel Valley district. Felando said he finds it "a little disconcerting that the chairman of the toxics committee would be the person responsible for spreading toxic residue into the air that we all breathe."
A Rules Committee analysis of Felando's proposal notes that neither the Senate--where a handful of members light up--nor the Assembly has a specific policy governing smoking. On Tuesday, the Assembly approved a bill to ban smoking on all intrastate commercial airline, train and bus trips. The measure also would require that at least 75% of the space in airports and public transit centers be reserved for nonsmokers. On Wednesday, however, the Assembly voted to reconsider the legislation, possibly as early as today.
Assemblyman William J. Filante (R-Greenbrae), vice chairman of the Rules Committee and a physician, said he thinks legislative pro-smokers are fighting a losing battle. Eventually, he predicted, his colleagues will approve a restrictive smoking policy for the entire Capitol.
The feisty Tanner, however, vowed to uphold smokers' rights. If Felando's ban ever takes effect, she said, the Assembly sergeants-at-arms will "have to arrest me every day" because "I intend to smoke on the floor."