Council passes anti-smoking bill affecting larger restaurants and businesses

March 16, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

David G. Boschert and Maureen Lamb had been engaged in a bitter feud, according to some observers of the Anne Arundel County Council.

After all, Mr. Boschert reportedly denied Ms. Lamb the promised council vice-chairmanship last December. And Ms. Lamb accused Mr. Boschert, the council chairman, of stalling tactics at a meeting last month, preventing a vote on her anti-smoking bill.

But the rift seemed to have been healed last night as Mr. Boschert provided the decisive vote in Ms. Lamb's successful attempt to amend Councilwoman Diane Evans' anti-smoking bill, which, unlike Ms. Lamb's earlier version, exempted restaurants, hotels and private businesses. Ms. Evans introduced her bill after she said Ms. Lamb's version was an unwarranted intrusion by government into the marketplace.

At last night's council meeting, Ms. Lamb withdrew her anti-smoking bill and introduced amendments to Ms. Evans' bill, all of which passed. The amended measure now bans smoking in businesses employing more than 50 people and forces restaurants seating more than 75 patrons to provide a non-smoking area.

The amended bill is set for a final vote on April. 5.

Council members Virginia Clagett and Edward Middlebrooks also supported the amendments, but they supported Ms. Lamb's stricter anti-smoking bill. Mr. Boschert, however, was a co-sponsor of Ms. Evans' business-friendly bill. He said he had problems with Ms. Lamb's bill, calling it hostile to employers, and should be re-written to lessen the burden on them.

Ms. Lamb said she convinced Mr. Boschert to support her by pointing out she had done just that. Her original bill called for smoking restrictions on businesses that employed more than 10 people, and non-smoking areas in restaurants that seated 50 patrons.

"I told him it was a compromise. And it was much less restrictive that the first bill," Ms. Lamb said after the meeting.

Mr. Boschert agreed. "The businesses in my opinion are not losing," he said. "I think it's a compromise."

The vote angered council members such as Council member Carl G. Holland, who supported Ms. Evans' bill.

"It's another 12th-hour maneuver and I question that," said Mr. Holland.

Bruce C. Bereano, an Annapolis attorney representing the tobacco lobby, spoke earlier in the evening in support of Ms. Evans' bill. But he, too, was angered by the amendments, which he said caught the business community off guard. Business groups vigorously opposed Ms. Lamb's stricter bill at a public hearing last month, but they "held back" last night because they were satisfied with Ms. Evans' bill.

"In reality, what this bill has done with the amendments is it has gone back to Councilwoman Lamb's bill," Mr. Bereano said. Now, he said, he would work his hardest to assure its defeat. When the county's business community learns what happened, "they are going to be very surprised and very disappointed and not very happy," Mr. Bereano said.

In other business, the council approved unanimously a bill sponsored by Mr. Middlebrooks that makes stalking a crime punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill, which takes effect in 45 days if not vetoed by the county executive, prohibits the continuing harassment of a person by sending threatening cards or letters, by issuing direct threats or by following the person.

Last night, the state Senate approved 44-0 a bill making stalking a felony.

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