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House, Senate OK smoke ban
House, Senate OK ban on smoking in restaurants.

 Del. Chris Jones, chairman of the House General Laws Committee, accepts congratulations after the bill passes.
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Date published: 2/20/2009

RICHMOND--

The House and Senate have both passed a bill to ban smoking in most restaurants, and Gov. Tim Kaine says he's likely to sign it.

Under the bill, smoking would not be allowed in restaurants and bars after Dec. 1 of this year.

The exceptions are private clubs, outdoor patio areas, and restaurants with fully separate smoking rooms with their own ventilation systems.

"I think it will be signed quite promptly," Kaine told reporters after both houses approved the bill yesterday. "I feel very good about it. It also demonstrates persistence can be a virtue."

Kaine has pushed for a smoking ban for several years, but it has always died in a House subcommittee.

But public support for a ban is high. This year, House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, agreed on a compromise with Kaine and other advocates of a ban.

A number of House Republicans still opposed the bill, arguing that restaurants should be able to decide for themselves whether to ban smoking.

Those Republicans had earlier amended the bill in ways that Kaine and other advocates of a smoking ban thought went too far, and the bill wound up in a conference committee.

The bill as passed yesterday essentially returns to the original compromise, with small changes, such as delaying the date the ban becomes effective to Dec. 1.

Neither house had much debate over the bill.

Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, who had instigated several of the earlier House amendments that Kaine found objectionable, said he was glad to at least see the delay in the bill's effective date, to give small restaurants more time to adapt to the change.

"You win some, you lose some," Kilgore said.

The Senate approved the bill 27-13; Senators Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania, and Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland, both voted for the ban.

The House vote was 60-39. Voting for it were Howell and Del. Bobby Orrock, R-Caroline. Delegates Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania; Ed Scott, R-Madison; and Albert Pollard, D-Lancaster, voted against it.

Chelyen Davis: 804/782-9362
Email: cdavis@freelancestar.com