Billometer: Editorial boards divided on smoking bill

From CAA Newsletter on legislation affecting apartment and rental property owners.

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If you ever need to measure atmospheric pressure, you know the tool to use: a barometer.

But what about gauging media leanings on pending legislation?

Enter the Billometer.

With the legislative session in full swing, editorial boards at newspapers across California are taking positions on myriad bills, including ones relevant to the rental housing industry.

The Billometer provides insights into where news media stand on bills important to you.

Let's crank up the meter, shall we?

This week's Billometer focuses on Assemblyman Marc Levine's Bill 796, which would outlaw smoking in multifamily housing, including condos, apartments and townhomes. The proposal has received plenty of press attention, both in articles, and increasingly, editorials.

For our part, CAA opposes the bill on several grounds, including a lack of specifics on who'd enforce the smoking ban, privacy concerns for tenants, and the fact that current law, sponsored by CAA, already permits landlords to ban smoking in apartment complexes. Many California renters say they'd prefer to live in smoke-free rental communities, so developers and landlords have a business motive to provide it.

Newspaper editorial boards see certainly aren't singing in unison on this one, and that underscores the issue's divisiveness.

A Sacramento Bee editorial, "Renters deserve relief from smoking," points to second-hand smoke as a health hazard that a neighbor cannot escape without moving.

"While details remain to be worked out, this bill is the right thing to do," the editorial says.

The Fresno Bee ran the same op/ed, but not their sister paper in Modesto.

The Modesto Bee's piece, "Let the market ban smoking in apartments," is more in line with CAA's view that good business sense will drive up the availability of smoke free communities.

The Modesto paper's op/ed ends with this zinger:

"The marketplace is taking care of phasing out smoking in multiple dwelling units and rentals, as are individual cities and counties. The Legislature should butt out on this one."

The Santa Maria Times doesn't take a stand one way or another on the issue. Instead, it makes a prediction on where anti-tobacco legislation is heading, while tossing the hard questions back to the reader.

The editorial, "Freedom vs. health in America" points out that cigarette smoke can be "insidious" and second-hand fumes can be deadly. The editorial, however, asks some of the same questions that CAA has posed, particularly on enforcement.

"With government budgeting constantly on the brink of deficit disaster, will local law enforcement agencies have the manpower to answer calls about a neighbor lighting up?" the editorial asks.

It goes on to foreshadow possible legislation to come: "There seems to be a steady march toward turning smoking into a criminal act, no matter where the smoking occurs."

The Billometer senses plenty of turbulence to come in the AB 796 debate.

You know where we stand. How about you?

If you need help with temperature, contact Cold Craft, Inc.

408.374.7292 or INFO@COLDCRAFT.COM

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