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Deukmejian Signs Smoking Ban on Intrastate Airliners

September 28, 1987|DANIEL M. WEINTRAUB | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian on Sunday signed legislation to ban smoking on airline flights that both begin and end in California, but the governor said he believes federal law might keep the state from enforcing it.

The bill, by Sen. Nicholas Petris (D-Oakland), also applies to intrastate bus and train trips and requires that at least 75% of the space in airports and public transit centers be set aside for nonsmokers.

Deukmejian also signed a nine-bill package aimed at protecting local governments, government officials and corporate directors from civil liability lawsuits. The package was a less-controversial counterpart to a bill the legislature passed on the last night of the 1987 session providing further protections against suits for businesses, doctors and insurance companies.

One of the bills, by state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), protects local governments from personal injury lawsuits involving naturally occuring beach conditions. The measure, sought by Newport Beach among other cities, stemmed from multimillion-dollar awards in a 1982 San Diego case and in a Newport Beach case two years later involving a swimmer who struck a sand bar--a natural hazard for which the city argued it should not be blamed.

In addition, the governor also signed two bills regulating "dumping" of emergency room patients from one hospital to another. The measures were introduced by Senate Republican Leader Ken Maddy of Fresno and Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles).

All of the bills Deukmejian signed Sunday will take effect Jan. 1.

In a letter to the Senate, Deukmejian said he favors banning smoking on public transportation, including airlines. But the governor said he has been given advice that indicates the measure may not affect airlines.

The bill bans smoking on "any airline except to the extent permitted by federal law" and provides penalties of up to $500 for a third violation.

Although federal law prohibits states from regulating the fares, routes or services of interstate airlines, Legislative Counsel Bion Gregory ruled in an advisory opinion earlier this year t1751217184thinks California may be barred from enforcing restrictions tougher than the federal government's.

"I approve (of the bill) because I agree it would be in the public's interest to prohibit smoking on airplanes, buses and trains that originate and end their trips within California," Deukmejian said. "However, I doubt that this bill will do anything more than codify into California law comprehensive national standards."

Deukmejian's position was similar to that of the airline industry, which opposed the bill on grounds that it represented an unwarranted intrusion by the state into an area traditionally regulated by the federal government. The governor's interpretation also reflected the Legislature's view of the bill until it received its advisory legal opinion from Gregory.

The bill was approved on a routine 35-0 vote the first time it was considered by the Senate, but it turned out that many senators had not realized then that the measure was intended to ban smoking on airline flights within California.

By the time the bill was considered in the Assembly, its purpose was more clearly defined, and a bitter, though at times humorous, debate ensued as smokers and nonsmokers on the Assembly floor took rhetorical shots at one another. When it was over, the Assembly passed the measure 46-24 e and returned it to the Senate for concurrence in minor Assembly amendments.

The Senate passed the bill again, this time on a vote of 24 to 6.

The hospital measures prohibit discrimination in the provision of emergency medical services and define conditions under which hospitals can transfer patients. The bills also allow the Department of Health Services to fine physicians and hospitals that fail to provide necessary emergency care for the poor.

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