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Iowa Update December 11, 2008

12th December 2008
On December 9, 2008 the Iowa legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC) held its regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Three directors of Iowans for Equal Rights (IER) presented testimony at that meeting concerning the enforcement rules and their recent amendments for Iowa’s Smokefree Air Act, House File 2212, as well as the Regulatory Analysis prepared by the Iowa Department of Public Health.
On December 10, 2008 the Des Moines Register published an article, Panel Rejects Challenge of Smoking Rule, by Jennifer Jacobs, concerning the ARRC meeting:
 
“Several small-business owners vented their frustration over the Iowa Smokefree Air Act at the state Capitol on Tuesday. Their latest attempt to fight the law was to protest some of the rules clarifying it that the state health department board adopted in November. Among the protesting group was the owner of Chesterfield Lounge in Fort Dodge, who got a notice this week about a potential smoking ban violation after someone observed customers smoking on the bar's outdoor patio. Smoking is legal on bar patios in Iowa, but it's banned on restaurant patios.”
 
            The health department’s smoking ban enforcement rules have been highly controversial and continue to be so. As previously reported, Iowans for Equal Rights has been in the forefront of opposition concerning the current enforcement rules on behalf of all small business owners in the state.  The group’s focus is on public education concerning the rules and advocacy through legislative and rulemaking processes to create amended rules that all business owners can operate under without unwarranted intrusion or undue burden. Meaningful progress has been made toward those objectives. After the ARRC meeting IER directors spoke with legislators concerning the current rules and were informed that the smoking ban source legislation would be reviewed during the next General Assembly, which begins in January. Organization and coordination for the legislative sessions is now in progress.
 
As to the basis of IER’s advocacy, please see eight letters from IER directors to the Iowa Department of Public Health concerning the enforcement rules at the following links:
 
 
As of the day before the ARRC meeting responses had been received to three of the eight letters. The health department claimed that responses to letters from two directors could not be delivered due to address or other mail problems. Considering that the letters were sent in early August and that IER directors met with personally Director Newton and staff on October 9, 2008, that is a troubling circumstance. In addition, IER directors were informed by an ARRC committee member of the Iowa legislature on October 14, 2008 that the health department was instructed by the Office of the Attorney General to not respond to those communications until after the last ARRC meeting. Coincidently, it seems, Iowa Attorney General Miller was recently appointed to the Board of directors of the American Legacy Foundation. Copies of the additional health department responses are currently being acquired and a report on the health department replies will be provided.
 
What is known at this time about the health department’s replies is that the department frequently pleads it case in answers to questions concerning the limitations of the source legislation on which they drafted the current enforcement rules. The health department claims in several responses received to date that it cannot change many of the most onerous requirements in the rules without changes to the source legislation, House File 2212. So at this juncture advocacy efforts by IER have essentially brought the current enforcement rules a stand-off draw, to where the group has intended from the beginning: IER advocates changes to the smoking ban source legislation and the health department admits legislative changes to the source legislation are necessary. Matters therefore proceed to the next General Assembly for review of House File 2212. Along the way, the health department has failed to receive a rubber stamp of ARRC approval through a “No Questions” about the rules decision by committee members. Indeed, there are serious, material and sustaining questions concerning the rules and many of the questions have been raised by members of the legislature. Public education by private advocacy opposition groups apparently works, after all.
 
Important Background Context
 
Links documents submitted by Iowans for Equal Rights to the Administrative Rules Review Committee and two talk shows that discuss them are provided below. In light of the highly inflammatory and deeply offensive comments by some participants on those talks shows a brief background is presented. It appears that, despite protestation to the contrary about public health and other noble purposes, in the final analysis what the Iowa smoking ban is about and foundationed on is a very simple concept: well-nourished and highly self-serving orchestrated intolerance.
 
Some who listen to the two broadcasts may find the comments by Mr. Bradshaw on WOW 98.3 FM Mac’s World to be disturbing. Mr. Bradshaw (now a fill-in temporary host for Mac McCoy who has left WOW 98.3 earlier this week) talks about smokers who “ . . . can’t get a full question out without an inhaler or taking a hit of oxygen.” He also talks about using the tax structure to “incentivize” behavior that society approves of and to “disincentivize” behavior, such as smoking, that society disapproves of (society approving or disapproving in strict accordance with Bradshaw’s personal preference, of course). Mr. Bradshaw supports fast food taxes and predicts a day when persons who smoke cannot get health insurance. Needless to say, Mr. Bradshaw’s apparent demeaning view of about 20 to 25 percent of Iowans who choose to smoke is in extremely poor taste. We suspect that most in the worldwide audience for this broadcast posting will find his views as expressed to be repugnant.
 
In some ways WHO 1040 AM host Jan Mickelson outdoes Bradshaw in the apparent quest for low-brow domination in the who rules the bigot’s roost of unseemly public comment competition. Mr. Mickelson talks about “cheesy dive bars” that accommodate patrons who smoke and proclaims that smokers are the only group whom it is “socially acceptable to stigmatize.” Mickelson does so with uncommon relish throughout the talk show, extending his vitriol to include casino managers as “parasites” and drinking alcoholic beverages as self-destructive behavior that imposes vast costs on society. Mr. Mickelson’s apparent beliefs are that society would be better off without persons who use tobacco products, drink alcoholic beverages, or patronize casinos (despite his early, tepid qualifier that he does not believe government should regulate any of those businesses). Based on the population of consumer groups that he vigorously stereotypes and demeans, it appears that the world according to Mickelson is just fine, absent about 75 percent of the current population.
 
Considering the words they spoke on the air, there can be no after-the-broadcast strident denials that Bradshaw or Mickelson really didn’t mean what they said and that the negative characterizations on the show are misinterpreted. The only acceptable response is a public apology on the air from Mickelson. Considering that Bradshaw’s utterances were made by a thirty-something temp-worker talk show host wanna be, the best response is to ignore the WOW 98.3 FM 1:30 time slot from now on.
 
The foregoing brings us to discussing the point that tobacco control in Iowa is managed by the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Commission (TUPCC). Bonnie Mapes, Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Control division, is part of the state executive branch staff to carry out the commission’s mission. Please see minutes of the commission’s January and July 2008 meetings for revealing information about the scope of those activities. A copy of the commission’s current budget can be reviewed through its FY 2008 Program Update. The commission was created by Iowa House File 2565 in 2000, sponsored by Republican (and now former House Minority Leader) legislator Christopher Rants. The purposes and intent of that legislation include:
 
“3.  It is also the intent of the general assembly that the comprehensive tobacco use prevention and control initiative will foster a social and legal climate in which tobacco use becomes undesirable and unacceptable, . . .”  
 
            The above legislative intent is consistent with policy first stated in April 1993 by the American Stop Smoking Intervention Study (Project ASSIST), to reduce public tolerance for and acceptance of tobacco use.Mr. Bradshaw and Mr. Mickelson are therefore stellar examples of how easily some folks in Iowa can be lead to drink with apparent relish and delight from the well of orchestrated intolerance for fun, personal gratification and profit after a mere fifteen years of tobacco control advocates banging the hate-tax-mandate drum. It appears that both hate small business owners who accommodate patrons who smoke as much or more than smokers.
 
We let Bradshaw’s and Mickelson’s own words, as well as related actions by the health department and behavior of commission members speak for themselves. Suffice it to say that opposition efforts in Iowa are conducted in an environment that is typified by comments such as one by Mr. Mickelson, “I want my intolerance and a subsidy, too.” It goes without saying that fiscally responsible consideration of genuine economic impact by diligent executive branch public servants apparently does not apply in Iowa. Which is, of course, quintessential tobacco control behavior: sell a bait-and-switch bill of goods to the public about how smoking bans increase business, and when earnest questions are raised first ignore, then deny, and ultimately attack any who disagree with self-serving regulations to be imposed by out-of-state special-interests. At least in Iowa we no longer need be encumbered by any delusion that the smoking ban is based on legitimate concerns about public health or fiscally responsible regulation. This smoking ban is a mercantile agenda hijacking of state law and public policy to superimpose self-serving rules on small business owners, plain and simple.
 
Smoking Ban Economic Impact and Talk Show Links
 
            On Monday morning, December 8, 2008, the day before the Administrative Rules Review Committee meeting, Iowans for Equal Rights submitted its economic impact analysis to committee members. Receipt has been acknowledged. Monday afternoon IER directors Randy Stanford and Tom Coates, as well as Norm Kjono, appeared on Mac’s World. Tuesday morning, before the scheduled 1:30 PM time for committee consideration of the enforcement rules Mr. Stanford and Mr. Kjono appeared on the Jan Mickelson show. IER Directors Mr. Stanford and Ms. David testified before the committee Monday afternoon, along with IER’s President, Mr. Shanno. The Des Moines Register article excerpted at the beginning of this posting speaks accurately to the result. Links to the economic impact report and talk show streaming audio are as follows:
 
Original Iowa Economic Impact Report
 
The economic impact report includes a background introduction and initially focuses on casino impact. The report includes comparative data from six states that show immediate and sustaining economic impact of smoking bans on casino revenues. That focus is required by the fact that tobacco control advocates and some members of the legislature have vowed to expand the Iowa smoking ban to include casino gaming floors during the forthcoming general assembly. The report also discusses economic impact concerning restaurants and bars.
 
            We will let the radio broadcasts and economic impact report speak for themselves as we continue to follow the intriguing path that the Iowa smoking ban follows through the twists and turns of meaningful opposition.

____________________

For previous information on this issue, please see "Great Victory Against Tobacco Control", October 17th, 2008


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