state Representative Robert Gilligan declared to Delaforum after
the House of Representatives climaxed more than five hours of
politicking and discussion on Mar. 18 by narrowly approving a
bill that would change the controversial law to exempt drinking
establishments, racetracks and their slot machine parlors under
certain conditions from the near-total ban on smoking in
enclosed public places.
Gilligan, the chamber's Democratic minority leader, was on the
short end of a somewhat surprisingly close 21-to-19 vote, he
predicted the measure will die in the Senate. And, should that
not happen, he said Governor Ruth Ann Minner is certain to veto
it. It was apparent from the tone of the discussion that
proponents of softening the law stand no chance of mustering the
two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto.
Delaforum previously reported, Minner, a staunch supporter of
the precedent-setting law, which is not yet a year old and only
four months from having gone into effect, has made it clear --
most recently in public in her 'State of the State' address in
January -- that she will resist any softening of its
provisions. Gilligan said he is "sure she will stick to her guns."
Gregory Patterson, her press
secretary, said later that the governor "has not said anything,
one way or another, about a veto"
He released a statement on her
behalf which expressed disappointment over the House vote. It
went on to quote Minner as saying, "I
hope that the members of the Senate will be more considerate
about the health of Delawareans and that more level heads will
"What we're creating [are] dens of
Members of the public
wait outside Legislative Hall in Dover while House of
Representatives Republicans caucus in an effort to come up
with compromise legislation to modify the state's
comprehensive ban on smoking in public places.
where you can go to smoke and drink or
gamble," said Robert Valihura, one of the co-sponsors of
the original law and leader of the opposition to
weakening it. Although he and Deborah Hudson, the other
co-sponsor, signed off on a compromise amendment worked out in
the Republican caucus during a three-hour recess before the
issue came to the floor of the full House, Valihura said the two
legislators plan further action with
regard to the law later in the current session.
agreeing to the compromise a matter of "making the best of a bad
Smith, the Republican majority leader, said the compromise was
intended to resolve "a long, drawn-out battle over very
parochial issues." He ended up voting with opponents of
softening the law.
The compromise, which emerged in the form of an amendment to the
bill to change the existing law, was approved 24-to-16. It would
allow smoking in a designated area in taverns and taprooms
provided they do not sell prepared food. The areas would have to
be separately ventilated and separated from the rest of the
establishments in a way that would prevent so-called second-hand
reaching the non-smoking area. Racetracks could set up similar
areas in their slot machine parlors provided that no more than
half the machines in the place were set up there.
rights could be transferred to a new owner, but only
establishments which exited on Nov. 27, 2002, the date the law
was effective, could claim them.
An unusual provision calls for the exemptions to expire if and
when Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey enact laws at least
as stringent as the existing Delaware law. The rationale there
is that the law is being circumvented by Delaware smokers who
cross nearby state lines to the detriment of Delaware
complained that amounted to
"putting financial interests ahead of health." He said that a
poll he took found 81% of responders in favor of the law as it
now stands. What's more, he added, owners of restaurants and
taverns "tell me they are not suffering at this time [a]
significant loss of revenue."
"Smoking and a shot of booze are
one-time; cancer is a long-time thing," said Dennis Williams.
Officials of local chapters of the American Cancer Society,
American Heart Association and American Lung Association
testified briefly against making any changes to the law.
discussion hardly qualified as a debate as proponents of
changing the law let the opposition do virtually all the
talking. The only substantive comment came from Pamela Thornburg.
She was content to challenge claims by Miro and Joseph DiPinto
that four months experience with the law was insufficient to
determine its effects. "We do not have to wait three months or
six months to find out [that] people are going across the state
lines, Thornburg said.
questioned the provision in the amendment which prohibited
establishments that allow smoking from selling prepared food.
That, he said, would seem to permit them "to double the price of
my martini and give me a [free] steak." No one raised the matter
of the mitigating effect of consuming food while drinking
amendment to the changing legislation to permit actors and
actresses in role calling for them to smoke to do so failed on a
voice vote. One to allow smoking areas in nursing and
assisted-living facilities and similar places providing for
elderly persons was approved.