BOISE – Opponents debated long and loudly, but the Idaho House on Friday easily passed legislation to extend its ban on smoking in most public places to bowling alleys.
The bill, HB 121, passed on a 48-17 vote and now moves to the Senate. It removes the bowling alley exemption from Idaho’s 2004 Clean Indoor Air Act, which banned smoking in restaurants and most other public places where people under 21 are allowed.
Rep. Bob Ring, R-Caldwell, a retired physician and the lead sponsor of the bill, said, “We have the opportunity to improve the health and safety of many people in Idaho, especially young people and families.”
Bowling, he said, “provides a great alternative to sitting on the couch watching video games.” But many Idaho parents won’t let their kids bowl because of the heavy cigarette smoke in the alleys, he said. Even the Idaho bowling proprietors’ association isn’t opposing the bill, Ring told the House.
North Idaho lawmakers split on the bill, with two-thirds backing it, but the other third helping lead the fight against the measure.
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, told the House, “The property rights of the individual rise above the desires of the majority.”
Added Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, “Bowling alleys right now have the right to not have smoking within that building if they don’t want to.”
Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, spoke against the bill not just once, but twice. Nielsen declared, “Private property rights are more essential than the state taking away the responsibilities of parents.” He said the bill would send a message to children that they don’t need to be responsible because “the great big brother” will take care of everything for them.
Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, told the House, “Health and safety do not trump private property rights, no matter how well intentioned. … The proper role of government is to protect private property rights, not provide smoke-free bowling alleys.”
Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, said, “I’m not held at gunpoint to go into a facility with second-hand smoke.”
Only a few House members spoke up in favor of the bill – though they were the majority. “This is a health issue, this isn’t a property rights issue,” said Rep. Les Bock, D-Boise.
Backers of the original Clean Indoor Air Act included the bowling alley exemption to help get the bill passed. Legislation to set aside smoking areas in bowling alleys failed in the House last year. This year’s bill simply removes the exemption.
Ring said, “We all believe in private property rights. However, if I own a business, it does not give me a right to cause harm to others.”