2 bills on smoking vie for council votes

March 15, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Two bills that would limit smoking in public places are competing for Anne Arundel County Council votes tonight, but it appears that victory is all but certain for the version that exempts businesses.

The measure sponsored by Councilwoman Diane Evans exempts restaurants, hotels and other private businesses from any legal restrictions on smoking. She introduced it after support began eroding for a more restrictive bill sponsored by Councilwoman Maureen Lamb.

Ms. Lamb's bill would limit smoking in most public places to a designated area, restrict smoking in businesses with more than 10 employees, restaurants that seat more than 50 patrons, hotels, motels and most stores. She drafted the bill after the Environmental Protection Agency issued a report in January stating that passive or second-hand smoke is harmful to non-smokers.

But most business groups in the county -- including the Anne Arundel Trade Council, the county's conference and visitors bureau, and the Maryland Hotel and Motel Association -- vigorously oppose the bill, saying that it would allow government to unnecessarily intrude into their affairs.

Ms. Evans' bill would restrict smoking in banks, classrooms, public meetings, museums, galleries, libraries, theaters, movie houses and concert halls but would allow smoking in the open areas of shopping malls. Ms. Lamb's bill would ban smoking in shopping malls.

Both bills also codify County Executive Robert R. Neall's ban on smoking in all county-owned facilities.

Ms. Evans' bill, with co-sponsors George Bachman, David G. Boschert and Carl G. Holland, appears sure to pass after its public hearing tonight, unless one of the four sponsors backs out. Moreover, it is unlikely that the bill will face opposition from business groups. The legislative committee of the Anne Arundel Trade Council voted to support the bill, even though some members don't like the idea of the government restricting smoking.

Other matters coming up for public hearings and votes include:

* A bill introduced by Mr. Boschert that would define and permit zoning for bed and breakfasts.

* A bill sponsored by Councilman Edward Middlebrooks that would stiffen the penalties for stalking.

* A $200,000 grant from the county to the Anne Arundel Medical Center for the construction of a new Women's Hospital at Medical Park near Annapolis.

Tonight's meeting will be held at 7:30 at the Council Chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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