By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 05, 2009 at 5:13 PM

It's possible that a bill for a state-wide smoking ban could be heading to Gov. Doyle's desk as soon as next Wednesday, May 13, according to State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee).

Richards, who penned the bill, says the proposed ban is on the fast track for voting in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature May 13.

He says it's a comprehensive ban that covers bars, restaurants, nightclubs, private clubs -- any public place. If passed, the phase-in process would begin in three months.

"We drafted it that way so it would go into effect rather quickly, because the health impacts of this are enormous. There's also a real savings for the state since we spend so much money on Medicaid and BadgerCare for people," said Richards.

"Just for heart attacks alone, we'd save over $1 million in the first year. If you add up all the health impacts from smoking, the Medicaid agency in the federal government estimates Wisconsin taxpayers could save almost $400 million."

There's a 10 a.m. public hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, May 6, in the assembly committee of public health at the State Capitol. Richards says people are welcome to submit written testimony to him personally at

There are currently more than 30 smoke-free communities in Wisconsin.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”