By Megan Banta

Gov.

Mitch Daniels

said in a speech Friday that he will push for a smoking ban

during the upcoming session of the Indiana

General Assembly

and that he supports fast-tracking the bill so it's law

before the Super

Bowl

.

"I think the time has come for a statewide smoking

ban

," Daniels said to applause from members of the Kiwanis Club of

Indianapolis. "I think that evidence has grown. I think that public

support has grown."

Daniels said other states have been moving in this direction

and that the time is right for Indiana to do so as well.

He said there are some "very good people in both

parties" who are working to get the bill passed and that he would like to

try to help them succeed in passing it in 2012.

The governor's speech about his legislative priorities came

one day after he announced his support for right-to-work

legislation

, which would free workers from paying fees to unions they don't

join.

Daniels — who his entering the last year of his second

and final term as governor — said he would also push for local government

reform and higher education affordability as well as legislation to provide more

money to victims of the Indiana

State Fair stage collapse

and efforts to force online retailers to collect

sales taxes.

Daniels said restructuring local government —

something that's been on his agenda repeatedly — has been more difficult

than he thought it would be. This year, he wants to focus more on providing

counties options for consolidation, rather than mandates.

"I think if we move down the trail of local options, of

letting people make the decision, I think you'd have a lot of jurisdictions

decide to modernize," he said.

Daniels said this way might work by creating "pressure,

maybe incentive or example, for the rest to follow" and that it is a

better option than past tactics because "just simply doing it in one stroke,

we're 0 for 2."

Daniels said he would push for more affordable higher

education because students who are graduating are "spending a striking

amount of money trying to do it and coming out with a striking amount of

debt."

He said one way to do this would be to address "credit

creep," which would mean allowing the Board of Higher Education to

challenge colleges who require more than the historical benchmarks — 120

credit hours for a four-year degree and about 60 for an associate degree.

He said these are "some things I think we can do in the

constant quest to improve our state and the prospects for the young people we

want to grow up and thrive in it."

"I look forward to the next session as I've looked

forward to every session," Daniels said. "We're going to make more

headway. We're going to further distinguish Indiana from other states."

Daniels's decision to push the smoking ban marks a change.

In past years, Daniels had said he would prefer to let local

communities pass their own smoking rules, although he also said he wouldn't

veto a ban if passed.

This will be the first session in which he actually endorses

a smoking ban and it comes as city officials in Indianapolis are considering

whether to strengthen its own rules.

Daniels also said he thinks it would be a good idea to pass

the ban before the city hosts the Super Bowl in February.

"I know the city has tried and might be able to address

it locally," he said. "I think it'd be a really good idea to move

fast."

He said this might mean combining it with legislation to

address sex trafficking, another priority for passage before the Super Bowl.

A survey released Thursday by the Bowen

Center for Public Affairs

shows that a smoking ban would have public

support as well. The Bowen Center surveyed 607 randomly chosen Hoosier adults

and found that 56 percent of Hoosiers support a smoking ban.

Supporters tried to pass a ban last year, but lawmakers

fought over whether to exempt bars, casinos and other establishments. Senate

President Pro Tem David Long

, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday that he expects a

ban can pass if health advocates are willing to settle for a law with some

exemptions.

"I've

become convinced we should do this with as few exceptions as possible,"

Daniels said after his speech Friday. "We'll see what that means when the

legislature convenes."

The

above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Statehouse File by

students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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