Alaska anti-smoking advocates say their legislation to create a statewide indoor smoking ban is languishing in a committee chaired by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, where it's set to die when the Alaska Legislature adjourns April 17 unless LeDoux decides to schedule a hearing and send it to the House floor.
"We're going to see what happens," LeDoux said.
The legislation would ban smoking in workplaces, businesses and public places including bars, expanding on laws already in effect in Anchorage, Juneau and several other communities. The ban would extend to e-cigarettes and vaping, neither of which is covered by the Anchorage ban. Some of the bill's more vocal opponents include members of both the e-cigarette and vaping industries.
Supporters of the bill include the American Lung Association in Alaska, the Alaska Federation of Natives, and dozens of hospitals, businesses and community groups. On Monday, some advocates criticized the pace of the legislation and accused LeDoux of killing it through inaction.
Anchorage businessman Tom McGrath, a cancer survivor and "Smoke Free Alaska" campaign volunteer, was in Juneau last week lobbying on the bill's behalf.
He said LeDoux wasn't available to meet while he was in the Capitol. But he said she called him Sunday night and told him she would not be scheduling a hearing on the bill.
"Which effectively kills it," McGrath said.
Asked about the call, LeDoux repeated her earlier statement.
Marge Stoneking, executive director for the American Lung Association in Alaska, said the campaign was encouraging its supporters to "nudge" LeDoux into giving the bill a hearing.
Senate Bill 1 was introduced by another Republican, Sen. Peter Micciche of Soldotna, who says the bill would improve public health and reduce costs associated with diseases that are linked to secondhand smoke exposure.
The bill passed the Senate 15-5 on March 30.
Several Republicans voted against it. Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, said it interfered too much with private business.
Micciche said Monday evening he spoke with LeDoux and urged her to schedule a hearing.
He noted bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and he told LeDoux it was her "prerogative to change the bill if that's what you feel is necessary, but please move it along and give it a fair chance to go through the process."
He said LeDoux didn't explicitly say she wouldn't schedule a hearing, but that she would be thinking about it and making a decision.