The state Senate debated the statewide smoking ban for four hours Wednesday. There were seventeen amendments offered – two of which would have allowed hotels and motels to offer a percentage of smoking rooms. Democrat Bob Jauch said not having any smoking rooms places a burden on innkeepers. "What is a hotel in Milwaukee supposed to do if they smell smoke in the room," asked Jauch. "Fine them? Try to charge their credit card?"
But Democrat Jon Erpenbach, who brought together the compromise bill, said smokers such as himself always have an alternative to lighting up in their rooms. "I've stepped out on the balcony, and I've had a cigarette," said Erpenbach. "If I smoke in the hotel room and there's no smoking, they're still going to charge me, because guess what? That's my room for the night. That's the way they work."
The first amendment – allowing up to twenty percent of rooms to be smoking – was tabled. Jauch offered a second amendment – the seventeenth proposed during the debate over the ban – allowing up to fifteen percent of rooms to be smoking. "All we're trying to do is make the bill a little bit more responsive, to a legitimate concern to businesses that will be harmed," said Jauch. "Those along the border will be economically hit, and hurt, because someone will go to Minnesota." Jauch had noted earlier that Minnesota and Illinois allow innkeepers to offer smoking rooms. A motion to table the second version of the amendment failed. An hour long Democratic caucus resulted in Senator Jim Sullivan changing his vote. The amendment was rejected, and the ban passed on final 25-to-8 vote.
Some other amendments which were offered and tabled during the Senate debate would have exempted private clubs such as the Moose and Elks, veterans clubs, hooka bars, cigar fundraisers, and nursing homes.
The Assembly took up the smoking ban after the Senate vote. In that chamber, there were 25 amendments proposed.