Committee seeks to reignite debate on casino smoking

TOPEKA — A bill to ban smoking on the floor of state-owned casinos is making one final appearance this legislative session.

In a hastily called meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee today, Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, stripped an old Senate bill and replaced the language with the smoking ban.

If it passes the full House, the bill could force a floor vote in the Senate, which has declined to take action on a casino smoking ban passed by the House earlier this year.

Landwehr is an opponent of the Indoor Clean Air Act that passed the Legislature last year and the expanded gambling bill that passed in 2007.

She has complained that the smoking ban has been devastating to small bars that relied on tobacco users for a large percentage of their customers.

Without the votes to move forward on easing the overall smoking ban, she turned her efforts to trying to remove an exemption that allows smoking on the gaming floor at casinos.

Under the state Constitution, the casinos approved for Mulvane, Kansas City, Dodge City and southeastern Kansas must be state-owned and operated.

Landwehr has argued that the ability to allow smoking gives the casinos an unfair business advantage over local bars and clubs.

Putting the language into a Senate bill would allow any senator to make a motion to bring the bill to a floor vote. It’s a tactic used earlier this year by abortion opponents to get a Senate vote on a bill to place tough restrictions on abortion clinics and the use of abortion-inducing drugs.

“We want to give it one more shot,” Landwehr said.

However, Senate President Steve Morris can declare the bill “materially altered” and send it to a committee. Proponents would then need the votes of 24 of the 40 senators to force a floor debate.