A state Senate committee has shot down legislation allowing towns to impose stricter regulations on smoking in public than what state law imposes. The bill's demise isn't a big surprise. This proposal has been floated several times in recent years without success.
Nonetheless, the margin of defeat, 6-2, was larger than many expected. We were among those supporting the bill, which enhances citizens' local control of smoking regulations. Ironically, many of the lawmakers who voted against the bill will loudly decry “one size fits all” edicts from Washington, D.C., but have done an about-face to support that approach when the dictate is handed down to all corners of the state from NE 23 and Lincoln. Critics accuse those lawmakers of hypocrisy. They have a point.
Some lawmakers with libertarian leanings argue that so long as tobacco remains a legal product (and tobacco taxes, ironically, support health spending), then it makes no sense to single out smokers for what they consider regulatory harassment. Other opponents argue increased regulation at the local level would put some businesses at a competitive disadvantage.