Virginia, which would have been abandoned by the British had they not discovered "tobacco farming," and which houses Philip Morris in a nice, fancy corporate building in its state capital, is attempting to push a public smoking ban through its legislature.
Easier battles have been fought.
The state's Senate Education and Health Committee, by a vote of 11-3, passed a package of bills Thursday to ban smoking in most public buildings, such as, say, restaurants and bars. It will now reach the full Senate and, if successful there, the far more difficult House.
The House! Several public smoking ban bills have reached the House in the past, and their mutilated skeletons now decorate the walls. Why? Basically, this:
Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Altria Group, the parent company of Richmond-based Philip Morris, said Virginia does not need to mandate a smoking ban because the state's restaurants already have the right to restrict smoking, as many do.
So why do Gov. Tim Kaine, an advocate of a public smoking ban, and his merry band of smokeless hippie Democrats even bother going up against the evil corporate money-eating lobbyists representing Philip Morris, yet again? Well ... who knows.
But they purport to have a plan this time! The package passed Thursday was actually a series of smoking ban bills offering a gradient of ban possibilities. There's a statewide ban option, but if that's too much for some people (lobbyists!), then there's an option allowing localities to enact bans. And if that's too much for some people (lobbyists!), then there's a ban that applies only to indoor restaurants.
In other words, Kaine's strategy is the old "throw enough spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks" switcheroo, which ... never works in politics (lobbyists!)
Jim Newell writes for Wonkette and IvyGate, and does not accept donations from lobbyists.