SPRINGFIELD — A bill banning smoking on all public university property in Illinois, including at outdoor locations such as tailgate parties, construction sites and farm fields, fell five votes short of passage Wednesday.
The measure, SB 2202, is sponsored by Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, got only 25 of the 30 votes needed and was placed on "postponed consideration," meaning that it can be called a second time.
There were 23 votes against the measure. Although the roll call was not preserved, the Senate voting board showed that all East Central Illinois senators voted against the bill.
"I want to be perfectly clear here that if you go to tailgate at a football game you will not be able to smoke at you car, standing next to your cookout grill, is that correct?" Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, asked Link.
"That part is correct. You can sit in your car and smoke all you want," Link responded.
Rose also argued that under the proposed law, a student could not smoke just outside a dormitory, "but I could walk two more feet to the city of Champaign sidewalk and smoke there."
Even Link's fellow Democrats spoke out against the measure.
"I believe that these young kids on the college campuses, that are old enough to be called to Iraq or Afghanistan, on any given Sunday afternoon, have the right to have a cigarette in their apartments, in their cars and certainly outside," said Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. "Cigarette smoking bothers me, but I don't say that they can't do it. I just remove myself from the situation."
Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, said she supported smoking bans in public buildings, "but I think we're just going too far here."
She and others said that if campuses want to ban smoking, they should do it but not the Legislature.
"I don't think this is something we need to do legislatively," said Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora. "I certainly think if the individual campuses want to do this, they have a right and the ability to do it. I think we're sort of overreaching here."
But Link said public universities told him "we really don't want to do it on our own because we will get slapped."
Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, ridiculed the bill on the floor.
"So a university employee who is riding on a tractor, out in the middle of the university farm at the University of Illinois or Illinois State University, and who is literally so far away from anyone else that someone would have to use a telescope to see that they're smoking a cigarette, that person under your bill would be banned from smoking a cigarette?" Righter asked. Link admitted the person would be banned from smoking.
"Surely all of us can get on board with the notion that the duly appointed members of the boards of trustees should be able to make some decisions," he said. "And that the person who is literally a football field away from anyone else, working on a construction site and wants to have a cigarette, poses exactly no health risk to anyone else. There is a point, even for those who believe in the most active of governments, to which you say, 'You know what, even Springfield's arm isn't that long.'"
As proposed, the Smoke-Free Campus Act says that on July 1, 2014, smoking would be prohibited on each campus of a state-supported institution of higher education. Also, that by Dec. 31, 2013, each public university must establish a community task force to establish rules for carrying out the law and implementing disciplinary actions and fines for violations.
The legislation would apply to the University of Illinois' Urbana campus although officials already have announced that the campus will be smoke-free by November.