A veteran Republican state senator is calling for a strong ban on smoking in public places.
State Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) says she'll support a bill that would ban smoking in bars, as well as restaurants and other places. The River Falls Republicans says she's heard from her constituents and most say it's a health issue. She hopes the bill can be passed without any exemptions for taverns, so there's a level playing field for all workplaces in the state. Harsdorf says this is not a partisan issue and the votes split along the rural and urban lines in the Senate.
Liz Sanger with Smoke-Free Wisconsin says Harsdorf's support is important because of her standing in the Senate. Sanger says Harsdorf's district being on the border of Minnesota, which has its own statewide ban, also shows the cause is crossing state lines.
Among those attending the Harsdorf announcement of support on Monday was a River Falls restaurant owner, who fears his city's ban on smoking in restaurants has created an uneven playing field with local bars. New Richmond restaurant owner Randy Calleja says that's why he opened his restaurant and bar advertising its smoke-free status from the beginning.
The Senate's Organization Committee will meet today and could set the terms and timetable for any upcoming Senate action on the smoking ban.