A bill that would let Oklahoma cities and towns craft their own anti-smoking laws will be heard next week after being stalled by a Senate committee chairman the first two weeks of this year's session.
Senate Bill 36, which would change state law and allow cities to pass their own smoke-free ordinances, has been reassigned to the Senate General Government Committee. Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, has placed the bill on his committee's agenda, which will be taken up at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
The bill had been sent to the Senate Health and Human Services committee. Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, the committee's chairman, said earlier this week he would not grant it a hearing. He refused to hold a hearing for a similar measure last year. He didn't ask for SB 36 to be reassigned.
“I would imagine that was done by the (Senate) pro tem or at the pro tem's direction,” Crain said. “It is within the pro tem's prerogative to do that, and I'm going to support the pro tem. We'll see what happens.”
Gov. Mary Fallin in her State of the State speech last week to lawmakers urged them to pass legislation restoring local control to cities and towns regarding tobacco use in public places.
“Gov. Fallin is pleased Senate Bill 36 is scheduled for a committee hearing next week,” Aaron Cooper, Fallin's press secretary, said Friday. “The governor's office will continue to work with legislators to answer any questions they may have and to ensure the bill moves through the legislative process.”
Fallin feels this is an important piece of legislation for the state that will improve the overall health of Oklahoma, he said.
Oklahoma ranks 47th in the nation in the prevalence of smoking. About 26 percent of adults in Oklahoma smoke. The state also has high rates of heart disease and stroke, which health officials have said is more common with people who smoke.
The Oklahoma Restaurant Association opposes the bill, saying it would be unfair to businesses.
Oklahoma and Tennessee are the only two states that prohibit local communities from establishing tobacco laws that are stricter than those of the state.