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Smoking in apartments could be out

May 30, 2008|Patrick McGreevy and Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Already barred from lighting up in restaurants, theaters and the office, Californians may also be banned from smoking in their apartments under a proposal passed by the state Senate on Thursday.

The measure would allow landlords to prohibit smoking in apartment buildings they own to protect nonsmoking tenants from secondhand smoke.

The legislation is among a slew of worker protection and consumer protection bills that advanced this week in the state Legislature, including bids to restrict lead in lipstick and toys, require nutritional information on restaurant menus, protect workers from discipline for using marijuana for medical purposes and bar dentists from arranging credit for patients while they are under the influence of anesthesia.

Senate bills now go to the Assembly for consideration, and vice versa.

In a year when the state is wrestling with a huge budget deficit, the Legislature has largely shelved non-urgent bills that add to state costs in favor of those that help consumers and whose costs are absorbed by the private sector.

"This year, consumer protection bills are getting an added emphasis, given the limitations presented by the budget," said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).

Padilla is the author of SB 1598, which would permit landlords to impose the smoking ban. California already prohibits smoking in many public places, including playgrounds, concert halls and some beaches.

"While we have championed the efforts to protect adults in the workplace and bars, we have done very little in this state to protect children and their families in their own homes," Padilla told his colleagues. He said his bill would "increase the availability of smoke-free housing in California."

The measure was opposed by Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Dick Ackerman of Irvine, who saw it as unnecessary meddling, and said it was against the wishes of the public.

"The vast majority of all renters, including . . . nonsmokers, are opposed to it," Ackerman said, citing a recent survey by Apartments.com.

The proposal, similar to a measure in Utah, is supported by the California Apartment Assn., which represents about 50,000 property owners, said Monica Williamson, vice president of the group.

"Current law is silent with respect to a landlords' ability to impose a smoking ban," she said. Padilla agreed to exempt rent-controlled units and require landlords to provide 12 months' notice of a smoking restriction on an apartment. The bill is opposed by the Apartment Assn., California Southern Cities. The group said there is nothing in existing law preventing landlords from barring smoking in apartments.

Although the measure must still pass the Assembly, the Senate was considered a significant hurdle.

The Western Center on Law and Poverty argued that the proposal discriminates against the poor, the disabled and people of color, who smoke and rent at higher rates than other segments of the population.

Other bills approved by the Senate include:

* A requirement that restaurant chains of 15 or more facilities make nutritional information available to consumers for all standard menu items, including total calories, saturated fat, trans fats, carbohydrates and sodium. (SB 1420 by Padilla.)

* A measure that would effectively ban the sale of lipstick containing lead. (SB 1712 by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco.)

* A proposed ban, beginning in 2010, on the sale of helium-filled metallic or Mylar balloons because they have caused power outages when released and tangled in power lines. (SB 1499 by Sen. Jack Scott, D-Altadena.)

* A requirement that an "ocean ranger" be assigned by the state on every cruise ship in California waters. The bill, SB 1582 by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), passed the Senate in response to a rash of crimes on ships in which victims say they were not protected. Rangers would be paid for by a $1.50 fee on passengers when departing and arriving on ships.

Meanwhile, a trip to the grocery store could cost a few extra dollars for people who don't bring their own bags under a bill that cleared the Assembly this week.

The measure, by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), would require stores to charge 25 cents per plastic or paper bag starting in 2011 if by then the store has not found ways to recycle at least 70% of the plastic bags its customers use. The money would be used for litter abatement.

Many Republicans attacked the bill as anti-consumer. Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City) noted that a 10-bag grocery trip would cost an additional $2.50 under such a law. "You're taking bread and butter and much-needed food from low-income families," she said.

The Assembly this week also passed bills that would:

* Make it illegal, beginning in 2012, to make or sell products for children younger than 12 that contain more than 100 parts per million of lead under a measure that sailed out of the Assembly with strong bipartisan support. (AB 2694 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco.)

* Give nearly all workers the right to paid sick leave, at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. (AB 2716 by Ma.)

* Make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers who have been permitted by a doctor and the state to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. (AB 2279 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.)

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

nancy.vogel@latimes.com

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