Smoking ban passes, expanded health insurance for children advances

Mary Mascher put up a post at Blog for Iowa a few days ago detailing action on several bills last week at the legislature. I recommend keeping an eye on that blog for legislative news as we get closer to the end of the session.

I read in the Des Moines Register that yesterday both chambers passed a compromise smoking ban bill, which covers almost all public places:

Iowans will still be able to smoke in the gambling areas of casinos, although smoke would be prohibited in casino restaurants, gift shops, bars and employee areas.

They can smoke in the outdoor areas of bars, the outdoors areas of county fairs and the State Fair except the grandstands, in limousines and in retail tobacco stores.

Other exemptions are designated areas of correctional facilities, the state veterans home in Marshalltown and Iowa National Guard facilities.

I’m pleased that restaurants and bars will be smoke-free. That will protect a lot of employees from second-hand smoke, and I doubt it will hurt business. The Waveland Cafe in Des Moines has no seen business drop off since it went smoke free last fall, because people like me, who had avoided bringing their families, are now eating there more often.

I was interested to read that the smoking ban did not have enough Democratic votes to pass either the House or the Senate. In both chambers, a majority of Democrats were joined by a small number of Republicans. The Register has the roll-call vote on this bill, in case you want to see how your representatives voted.

Governor Culver’s office indicated that he “looks forward” to signing the bill.

The Senate on Monday passed a bill expanding health insurance coverage for children, including some young adult children. According to the Des Moines Register,

The bill now returns to the House, which passed a less specific version last month.

A children’s welfare advocate who expressed doubts about the original House bill praised the version that passed in the Senate Monday.

“I think we’re getting there. We’re getting there,” said Carrie Fitzgerald, senior health policy associate for the Child and Family Policy Center. She said the new bill includes more specifics, such as measures to prevent eligible children from being taken off public programs.

As my husband and I have learned during the past five years, the cost of health insurance for young, healthy adults increases once you have a child, and with every additional child. If a parent’s employer does not provide your health insurance, the cost of a private plan can easily be out of reach for middle-income families.

It’s short of the universal access to health care we need in this country, but making more children eligible for low-cost state insurance plans is a step in the right direction.

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