Key lawmakers appear to be favoring a public smoking ban that would grant exemptions for small taverns and most of casino floors while allowing private clubs to decide their own smoking policies.

For the third time, a House-Senate conference committee postponed a decision this morning on a compromise smoking ban, but promised to meet again next week to seek a deal. They could meet as early as Monday.

Sen. Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks, sought the delay, saying he was almost ready to put a new proposal before the committee. He wouldn't comment on the details, except to say he's working with Gov. Ed Rendell's office to clarify language on enforcing the ban.

Another committee member, Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said he expects the plan to exempt taverns that sell little food, a percentage of casino floors, and cigar bars. He also expects clubs to get the power to decide for themselves.

Because any plan that clears the conference committee must be ratified by both chambers on a yes-no vote, McIlhinney said it's important to get it right.

"Once it leaves the committee, it cannot be changed," he said.



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