TARGET 8: Lawmakers Still Smoke in Their Capitol Offices

4 years 10 months 2 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 man who ran against Michael Trapp for the City Council’s second ward seat is back again for... More >>
4 days ago Friday, January 12 2018 Jan 12, 2018 Friday, January 12, 2018 6:19:00 AM CST January 12, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A Winter Weather Advisory was in effect Thursday across parts of mid-Missouri, causing slippery conditions on roadways. ... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 11:36:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The man convicted of abducting and killing a 10-year-old Springfield girl has been sentenced to death. ... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 9:40:40 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
Columbia - Thursday's quick drop in temperatures, coupled with some precipitation, made driving very difficult on some roads. However,... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 9:30:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
PULASKI COUNTY - Two people died and two people were injured in a shooting Thursday afternoon in Pulaski County. Both... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 8:28:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - All kinds of wildlife were involved in a crash early Thursday morning. According to Columbia police, a... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 8:05:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
BOONVILLE - The flu hit home for the Boonville School District. School is canceled Friday because of the alarming rate... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 7:45:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – Former Columbia Public Schools’ educator Susan Blackburn is running for a seat on the CPS Board of Education.... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 7:20:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — St. Louis circuit attorney launches investigation to determine if Gov. Eric Greitens committed crimes linked... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 4:42:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Springfield man serving life in prison for murdering his 14-year-old stepson has died in prison.... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 4:18:32 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Voices were raised and tensions were high as members of the community told staffers what they think Rep.... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 3:52:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Hair braiders in Missouri have lost an appeal over a state requirement that they must... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 3:42:20 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – Waffle House has released a statement involving the fatal shooting of Anthony Warren on New Years Day. ... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 2:55:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS - Police say security guards fatally shot a patient at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis after he pushed... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 2:03:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Senators are divided over the political implications of Gov. Eric Greitens' admitted affair and alleged blackmail. ... More >>
4 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 2:00:00 PM CST January 11, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A group of Missouri senators is asking the state attorney general to investigate allegations of blackmail against... More >>
5 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 11:49:00 AM CST January 11, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Police are looking for a suspect who shot a woman at the Woodlake Apartments on Thursday morning. ... More >>
5 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 11:41:00 AM CST January 11, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Senate GOP leaders say allegations against Republican Gov. Greitens are "shocking and concerning." Senate President... More >>
5 days ago Thursday, January 11 2018 Jan 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 10:29:00 AM CST January 11, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds
2pm
3pm
4pm 10°
5pm

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

1:00p
Days of Our Lives
2:00p
The Dr. Oz Show
3:00p
Dr. Phil
1:00p
Maury
2:00p
Maury
3:00p
The Robert Irvine Show

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Ellen's Game of Games
8:00p
This Is Us
9:01p
Chicago Med
7:00p
The Flash
8:00p
Black Lightning
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld