It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Anchorage lawmaker Gabrielle LeDoux singlehandedly killed a popular bill that would ban smoking statewide in public workplaces-- but here it is 2018, and as Yogi Bera said, it’s déjà vu all over again.

In 2016 LeDoux used her position as House Judiciary chair to kill the bill. This year she is Rules Chair, a reward for splitting from her Republican colleagues to help Democrats take the majority.

And once again, she is keeping the bill from getting beyond her committee. All she has said publicly is that the state should not be cramming down the throats of municipalities a program they may not want.

But Alaskans do want it. Overwhelmingly, according to polls that LeDoux is content to ignore. 

Who doesn’t want it? Some bars and restaurants that are fearful of losing customers. Even though those that go smoke-free typically report an increase in business.

About half the state is covered by local smoke-free workplace laws from Bethel to Anchorage. But about 70,000 Alaskans live in places that won’t or can’t pass similar laws.

Here’s the strange thing. LeDoux's Anchorage constituents are already covered by a smoke-free workplace ban. But, the bars in her former hometown of Kodiak are not. And apparently, they like it that way.

The head of the Kodiak Restaurant and Bar Association says that smoking is a personal choice-- the same as choosing your own religion. Except of course, that you’re not likely to die from inhaling a secondhand prayer.

LeDoux's power play has nothing to do with conservative versus progressive values. It’s co-sponsored by Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature with overwhelming support. 

To spin it as state overreach is as dismissive as stiffing a waiter or waitress for excellent service.

In bars around Alaska, they’re forced to put their health at risk to earn a living-- and they shouldn’t have to.

LeDoux may have just one more session to withhold the protections these Alaskans deserve. Republicans are targeting her Anchorage seat because of her defection to the Democrats. In the meantime, it appears she will continue to carry the ashtray for her friends in Kodiak.

John's opinions are his own and are not necessarily that of Denali Media or its employees. 

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