TARGET 8: Lawmakers Still Smoke in Their Capitol Offices

4 years 7 months 3 weeks ago Tuesday, February 26 2013 Feb 26, 2013 Tuesday, February 26, 2013 4:25:00 PM CST February 26, 2013 in News
By: Emily Spain
loading

JEFFERSON CITY - Public places in Jefferson City went smoke free nearly two years ago, but some very special parts of the state capitol building have yet to follow suit. While the building as a whole requires state employees and visitors to smoke outdoors, elected officials in this building can still light up in their offices.

When you walk down certain hallways you can smell tobacco fumes, which not everyone approves.

"What we do ask is that the capitol building, the people's house be a smoke free public place just like other government buildings are smoke free," said Stan Cowan, an anti-smoking advocate.

Earlier this session, a house amendment moved to the floor to make the building truly smoke-free, but lawmakers backed off and voted to leave the decision up to each party caucus. Minority leader Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, said for the House Democrats this was the year for change.

"It's 2013, we just can't do it anymore. It's an embarrassment that the state capitol is the only place in state government where people can smoke," Hummel said.

So, the House Democratic Caucus agreed its lawmakers would no longer smoke in their offices.

"There's no reason that we should be above the law. We should not be special, we should not be better than any other state employee or any visitor to this capitol," Hummel said.

The responsibility to figure out the Republican Caucus' response to smoking in the building fell to the House Accounts Committee. Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis, serves as the chair of that committee.

"Our caucus decided on a policy that would request that members respect the health and the visitation of their constituents of visitors and somewhat police themselves," Scharnhorst said.

House Republican leaders sent out a proposal that asked its members to "respect" visitors and put a sign on their door if they wish to smoke, among other suggestions. However, it does not outright ban smoking for Republican lawmakers.

"These are elected people who have the right to administer their office in their own way, I would think that those of our representatives that do smoke their constituents will control what that courtesy is," Scharnhorst said.

So, Republicans did not move to restrict their members from smoking and question whether Democrats are following their own new rules.

"I know several of my good friends on that side of the aisle and smoke a considerable amount of cigarettes," Scharnhorst said.

For Cowan, who worked 33 years for the state health department, a lawmaker's right to smoke isn't a good enough argument to allow it.

"I would say don't the people that work in that offices the people that visit, don't they have the right to breathe air that's not polluted?"

Cowan worked as part of the coalition that pushed for a smoke-free JC, a battle he won two years ago. Now, he's once again fighting for public health.

"Decades of science that second hand smoke is indeed a very real risk to health particularly for cardiovascular health... Smoke doesn't stay in their office, it will infiltrate out," he said.

Scharnhorst argues it's not up to the Republican leaders to make that decision and ban smoking.

"I don't have the power over an elected official, his office is his domain. I don't think I have a right to do that in their office, his constituents do or her's do, that's the way I think it should be handled at this point," he said.

The Republican stance has some lawmakers on that side getting negative feedback from the public.

"I think we have to address the public perception, we're not setting our rules and we're here and working for them," Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said.

"Should my office receive a complaint, we will visit with that member and hopefully come to a resolution," Scharnhorst said.

A proposal to ban smoking house wide later fell to the House Rules Committee, but there it got voted down 8 to 4, with all Republicans voting against it and all Democrats voting for it.

"The dynamic down here is interesting because there's so many more Republicans than Democrats," Rowden said.

"(Smoke) doesn't really care if the lungs belong to a Republican or Democratic, it's going to attack the lungs regardless," Cowan said.

For now, the power to control the quality of the air you breathe at the state capitol still remains in the hands of the smokers and nonsmokers you elected to be there.

Missouri's capitol building is one of 11 capitol buildings in the country that are not smoke-free, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. Seven of the eight states bordering Missouri have smoke-free capitol buildings, with the exception being Kentucky.

 

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that public defenders may not turn away clients without first getting permission... More >>
2 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 6:37:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA– A shuttle service responsible for bringing residents back-and-forth to campus is citing a communication breakdown for its slow response... More >>
2 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 6:25:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - On Thursday Missouri officials officially announced its proposal to attract Amazon's second headquarters to Missouri. Governor Eric... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 5:51:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Gov. Eric Greitens has appointed a Republican Missouri House member to serve as an associate circuit... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 5:31:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA -- The City of Columbia received recognition for its efforts in working towards LGBTQ equality. The city earned... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 5:20:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — An official from a company working to commercialize high-speed Hyperloop transportation says Missouri is among the... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 4:23:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
FULTON -- A South Callaway High School student is accused of sending out a threatening Snapchat. Police said the... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 3:54:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman had pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes on at least... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 2:55:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A woman has admitted that she lied about her nursing credentials to work at a St.... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 2:33:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
FULTON – Ameren Missouri’s Callaway Energy Center is in the middle of a 55-day outage, where crews will replace fuel... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 1:42:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Students were speaking out in frustration Thursday about how professors handled Wednesday's active threat on the MU campus.... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 1:40:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - Access to health care can be a matter of life or death. Callaway County's only hospital almost... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 12:47:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - The question of whether to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary, in part because of its Confederate roots, will... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 12:44:00 PM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The attorneys general for 49 states and the District of Columbia reached a settlement with General Motors... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 11:57:11 AM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
BOONE COUNTY - Sheriff's deputies said a teenager was shot in a home on Bethany Drive on Wednesday. The... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 10:43:00 AM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Police are investigating a home invasion on Clark Lane after victims said two men broke in and took... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 10:07:00 AM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - For Harold’s Doughnuts owner Michael Urban, big customer turnout and big sales are Homecoming traditions he looks forward... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 8:13:00 AM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Homecoming weekend is a big deal in Columbia with thousands flocking in for festivities, including tailgating prior to... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, October 19 2017 Oct 19, 2017 Thursday, October 19, 2017 3:35:00 AM CDT October 19, 2017 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 53°
6pm 54°
7pm 53°
8pm 55°
9pm 54°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

5:30p
NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt
6:00p
Football Night in America
7:20p
Sunday Night Football
5:30p
The Goldbergs
6:00p
Saving Hope
7:00p
Twisted

Tonight's Schedule

6:00p
Football Night in America
7:20p
Sunday Night Football
7:00p
Twisted
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Family Guy