Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How To Argue About Something You Agree On

The morning paper (and last night's Ogden on Politics) has a story about Council President Ryan Vaughn's intention to offer enhancements to the current smoking ban in Indianapolis.   (see "Bars could be smoke-free soon" by Star reporters Jon Murray and Shari Rudavsky, and Paul Ogden's "Indianapolis' Mayor Ballard, (Some) Council Republicans To Throw Bar Owners Under the Bus In Expanded Smoking Ban")

Instead of ushering in a spirit of cordiality and bipartisanship, which one could have hoped would be the tone for next year's split party governance, it appears to be the first volley in party warfare.  Hopefully I am way off the mark and cooler heads will prevail.

At its core is the intention of many to have a full or nearly full ban on smoking in Indianapolis - tightening up the law passed in 2005.

The Democrats have more Councillors, both on and soon to join the Council, in favor of a stricter ban than do the Republicans.  According to Councillor Angela Mansfield, she would have a veto proof 18 votes in favor of a ban come January.  Mansfield is working again with Republican Ben Hunter to craft a stricter ban than they were able to get passed previously.

Neither the Mansfield/ Hunter plan nor the Vaughn plan are available for public review.   I am not sure that Mansfield's proposal would be a 100% ban, either, but, according to the Star, Vaughn's proposal would :
In addition to bars and bowling alleys, Vaughn says, his proposal would ban smoking in hotel rooms as well as restaurants that slipped through the current law by allowing only patrons who are 18 or older.

His proposal would exempt cigar and hookah bars -- newly defined as "tobacco specialty bars" based on sales -- as well as retail tobacco stores and nonprofit fraternal organizations, including veterans' halls.

Vaughn says his plan has the virtue of the backing of Mayor Ballard, and an earlier passage date which would be in keeping with state law notification time requirements on enacting laws that impose penalties.  Mansfield sites her 18 votes and says the penalties were contained in the 2005 ordinance and are therefore not subject to another time limit.

I understand the all or nothing approach of Smoke Free Indy, but this is the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council.  Passage of the weaker Vaughn proposal may wipe out some of the 18 votes Mansfield would need to veto proof additional expansion of the smoking ban in January, and if that happened, Vaughn's weaker proposal would stand for some time to come.  But, if Vaughn's approach is satisfactory to some of Mansfield's 18 votes, then how solid is her support in reality?

One aim is to have a ban in place by the Super Bowl, in order to leave a more progressive impression with visitors.  Even if Mansfield's interpretation is ultimately correct, an appeal to the Courts could delay any proposal passed in January while the Court considers the validity of the challenge.  A long term outlook for the health of bar workers would continue to be satisfied, but the opportunity some see in marketing Indy could be lost.

At some point, the new Council and the Mayor will either have to learn to talk and consider compromises that move our City forward, or we will have 4 years of gridlock.

[edited to add: My mistake, 18 votes is not veto-proof.  According to the Indianapolis Code, a 2/3 majority is needed to override a veto.  That calculates to 19.33 votes required - so I assume 20 are in reality required to override.  This makes discussion by the Council and Mayor even more imperative.  On a smoking ban, even if Mansfield can get all 16 Ds and Ben Hunter, Ryan Vaughn, and Mike McQuillen to vote for her proposal, it would not be enough votes to overturn a Ballard veto.]


Blog Admin said...

Mansfield says she has 18 votes on 2012's council? I think her math is a bit fuzzy, or party leaders need to do some arm twisting.

Vop Osili told me, with absolutely no uncertainty, that he'd vote against a smoking ban if it came with exemptions.

Besides Hunter and Vaughn (to be fair to Vaughn, he did come out in favor of an expanded ban during the campaign), the GOP support for an expanded ban is soft at best.

Smoke Free Indy and whoever did the push at the state house need to learn that within the legislative process, compromise is necessary. Look at how many concessions Mike Delph made to get his immigration bill passed. It's much weaker than the Arizona law, and likely wouldn't have passed if he didn't compromise with other legislators.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Matt, I don't know who has agreed to vote for an expanded ban, but I assume Mansfield is saying what she knows - it would not be good for anyone to have a proposal go down to defeat just because you introduced it at the wrong time.

As for Smoke Free Indy, I can see their point. I believe the pro-ban forces asked that a proposed State ban be pulled during the last legislative session because it got too watered down. A weak ban can spoil or delay for a long time any effort to put in a strong ban. But, at this point, Indy has a ban and now, like it or not, the discussion is how complete to make it, and not everyone is going to get their way.

It would be a very different situation if the Council and Mayor next year were of the same party. With those circumstances you can call the shots and afford to ignore other voices. Not so for the next four years.