By ERIK SCHELZIG
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A proposal to ban most workplace smoking, including in restaurants, passed the traditionally tobacco-friendly House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.
The version adopted by the panel includes several exemptions left out of the version that the Senate passed last week. The exceptions would allow smoking in bars, private clubs and businesses with up to three employees.
House Agriculture Chairman Stratton Bone, a former tobacco farmer, acknowledged that the bill that passed 12-2 "is not perfect," but reflects a compromise needed to move the measure forward.
"A lot of us don't think that government should get involved in everything we do, but we feel that this is an issue that we ought to take a stand on," said Bone, D-Lebanon.
House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol, had encouraged the panel to approve a version that "is more reasonable than what the Senate passed."
The Senate bill was amended last week to closely mirror a proposal from Gov. Phil Bredesen to ban smoking in nearly all enclosed public places. Limited exceptions would include nursing homes, tobacco stores and hotels.
Bone pledged to move the bill back to the House Agriculture Committee if it is substantially changed in later committees or on the floor.