Monday, December 19, 2011

Are Democrat Votes Lacking For Smoking Ban?

Tonight is the last Council meeting of the year, and the last where the Republican majority will reign.  Among other items of interest on tonight's agenda is the glaring absence of Prop 352, the Vaughn proposal to extend Indy's smoking ban.  That proposal failed to get out of last week's meeting of the Rules committee - only Councillors Vaughn and McQuillin voted to send it to the full Council for a floor vote.  Councillors Cockrum, Lutz, Rivera, Gray, Sanders and Mansfield voted to kill it then and there.

From the beginning, the Democratic caucus' response to this proposal was worse than tepid.  Caucus leader, Joanne Sanders, continually referred to it as an attempt for Vaughn to take credit from Councillor Angela Mansfield's years long efforts.  Her unswerving distrust/dislike of Vaughn finally culminated at last week's Rules committee meeting in her theorizing that the entire proposal was a setup for defeating any extension of the smoking ban.  As is usually the case with conspiracy theories, the folks accused of fabricating them just aren't that smart and clever.

Mansfield also showed contempt for the backers of the proposal and, despite the support it eventually got from interested organizations, she declared she would not ask her caucus to support it.  In the end, she voted against it in the Rules committee.

Well, I'll venture a possible additional reason for not wanting a floor vote on the proposal.  It just may be that the Democrats couldn't get enough votes for Prop 352, even if they all put their feelings about Vaughn aside like the adults we all expect them to be.  The potential embarrassment just might have been too much to endure.

I've been looking at past votes and needed votes to pass the extension of the smoking ban.

Prop 352 would require 15 votes for passage.

Vaughn had his and Councillors Hunter, Malone and McQuillen's votes to contribute to the 'yes' side of the tally.   So the Ds would need to come up with 11 yes votes out of 13 Democrats voting to secure passage.

During last week's Rules Committee meeting, Democrat Councillor Gray demonstrated an interest in maintaining some significant exemptions to a complete ban when he voted against two of Mansfield's amendments - one to remove Vaughn's exemption of the downtown off track betting facility, and the other to deny the ability to transfer a tobacco store or hookah bar license that would exempt those facilities from the smoking ban; both amendments failed.  He also voted against sending the proposal to the full Council for a floor vote, along with Sanders and Mansfield. 

Back in 2009, Gray voted in favor of amending a proposed extension of the smoking ban so that the ordinance would continue to exclude fraternal organizations and tobacco stores, then curiously asked to be allowed not to vote on the actual proposal in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.  No further explanation is available in the minutes.  So, ultimately, Gray's position on an extension of the smoking ban is not certain.  The amendment, had it passed back in 2009, would have resulted in a modified proposal that is quite similar to the one introduced by Vaughn last month.

Councillor Dane Mahern asked to be allowed not to vote on both the amendment and the proposal to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest due to a previously scheduled fundraiser.  So, his position is not on the record.

Voting against the 2009 proposed extension of the smoking ban were Democratic Councillors Brown and Oliver.  The minutes of that meeting reflect Brown's interest thusly:
Councillor Brown said that 98% of establishments were impacted by the current ban, and he asked if there are statistics showing the number of workers that were impacted. Seeing no response, Councillor Brown asked if there are any statistics showing the number of workers that will further be affected. Councillor B. Mahern said that if they affect one worker it is worth it. Councillor Brown said that through education, he continues to support non-smoking initiatives, but he would like to see an accounting of the percentage of reduction in second hand smoke deaths since the ban to warrant a further ban. Councillor Hunter said that second-hand smoke deaths are down across the country by 62 million.
Brown voted for the amendment loosening the proposal (the amendment that failed) and against the proposal.

Oliver was noted in the minutes proposing an amendment to exempt bowling alleys, which did not receive a second.  He vote against the other amendment and the final proposal as well.

Not in attendance that night were Councillors Pfisterer and Minton-McNeill.  The latter testified against Vaughn's proposal last week, saying an all or nothing ban was required so as to maintain a level playing field between hookah bars and mom and pop tavern operations.

All the remaining 8 Democrats voted in favor of the 2009 proposed extension of the smoking ban.  That proposal failed by a vote of 12 to 13.  The exact tally was:

12 YEAS: Bateman, Evans, Hunter, Lewis, Mahern (B), Malone, Mansfield, Moriarty Adams, Nytes, Sanders, Smith, Vaughn
13 NAYS: Brown, Cain, Cardwell, Cockrum, Coleman, Day, Lutz, McHenry, McQuillen, Oliver, Plowman, Scales, Speedy
2 NOT VOTING: Gray, Mahern (D)
2 ABSENT: Minton-McNeill, Pfisterer
It is possible that some of the 8 Democrat votes would not be cast for anything but a complete ban.
So, all put together, if Prop 352 had come before the full Council tonight, victory was not assured, even without all of the political mishigas.  There would be 4 Republican yes votes, 8 likely (but not sure) Democrat yes votes, one likely Democrat no vote, and 4 uncertain D votes - at best.
It would have been a nail biter.  But, it would have been a public service to hold the vote.

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