By Paige Baxter, Capital News Service
The Senate today passed a bill to prohibit smoking in a vehicle when a child under 15 is present.
Senators voted 30-10 for the bill, which now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration. All Democrats — including Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Janet Howell (D-Reston) — supported the bill, along with half of the Senate Republicans.
Under Senate Bill 975, proposed by Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia Beach and Norfolk), people who violate the proposed law would face a civil penalty of $100.
On the floor of the Senate, Northam said the legislation was inspired by a third-grader who told Northam his parents smoke in the car with him.
“It will protect our children and improve their health and in the end hopefully cut down on health care costs,” Northam said.
Northam’s bill is one of three smoking bans still making their way through the General Assembly.
Another bill in the Senate, SB 1253, would give local governments the authority to ban smoking in public areas such as parks and beaches. The Senate Local Government Committee approved this proposal, 11-4; it is now before the full Senate.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed its attorney this winter to look into the legality of smoking bans on county property, required courses that would encourage quitting and the consideration of tobacco use in a person’s hiring.
The board would need General Assembly authority to enact the first, its lawyer said; the county can mandate smoking cessation classes for county employees but it cannot require them to "pass" the class or quit smoking.
In 2009, the Board succeeded in banning smoking under bus shelters, but extending that ban to parks and school areas would require the state to sign off as well.
How They Voted
Here is how senators voted on SB 975 on third reading. The bill passed, 30-10.
YEAS – Alexander, Barker, Blevins, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, McWaters, Miller, Newman, Norment, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Reeves, Saslaw, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Watkins – 30.
NAYS – Black, Carrico, Garrett, Martin, McDougle, Obenshain, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Wagner – 10.
Patch Editor William Callahan reported for this story.