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House rejects smoking ban

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Ban for bars where the kids are?

House rejects smoking ban

January 25, 2005
By Denise Ross, Journal Staff Writer

PIERRE — The smoking ban bill that sailed through a legislative committee on Monday met its demise on the House floor Tuesday at the hands of West River lawmakers.

Those who favor a ban on smoking in all public places blamed the bill’s defeat on confusion and predicted a reversal today, when lawmakers will vote on whether to reconsider the bill.

HB1075 would have extended a smoking ban passed in 2002 that applied to such public places as restaurants but let bars, casinos, tobacco shops and package liquor stores continue to allow smoking.

The House killed HB1075 after an abbreviated debate. The debate was cut short by a procedural move that requires lawmakers to vote immediately with no debate.

Rep. Ted Klaudt, R-Walker, moved to table HB1075 after about 10 minutes of debate that centered on the importance of clean air to public health versus the rights of business owners to regulate activity in their establishments. Klaudt’s motion to table the bill – a motion to kill the bill – passed 39-31.

Klaudt’s tabling motion cut off floor debate, including any comments from Klaudt himself. After Tuesday’s vote, he said he opposes any governmental interference in private business.

“Government should never stick their nose into private business. I was against it (smoking ban) when we passed it the first time,” Klaudt said. “It’s just wrong. It’s bad government. Bad government is not justified by a health issue.”

Klaudt’s charge against HB1075 followed a similar but failed attempt from Rep. Tom Hennies, R-Rapid City, to kill an amendment that would have extended the smoking ban to holders of only a malt beverage or wine license but which allowed smoking in establishments with liquor licenses and in casinos.

Hennies said afterward that business owners who take the risks should not have government dictate who their customers can be.

Rep. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, offered the amendment in an attempt to close a loophole exploited by some restaurants after the 2002 ban took effect but to continue allowing smoking in bars and casinos.

“This amendment targets places and employees many of us believed were covered by the 2002 ban on smoking,” Cutler said. “This is a reasonable compromise to deal with smoking in public places.”

Cutler and American Cancer Society lobbyist Jennifer Stalley blamed HB1075’s death on confusion stemming from the lack of any debate or comment after the two tabling motions, which came in quick succession. Furthermore, they said, an electronic board that hangs in the front of the gallery and tells House members what vote is at hand was not working, and some House members’ microphones were not working.

And when House members voted on Hennies’ motion to kill Cutler’s amendment, it was done on a voice vote, when a supporter of HB1075 should have asked for a roll call vote to get an exact count, they said.

“The opponents used a strategy to not talk about this bill on its merits. They used procedural maneuvers to kill it,” Stalley said. “It deserves better than that.”

Cutler said some lawmakers told her they were confused and that they support HB1075 even though they voted to kill it Tuesday.

“It’s still alive. We think we have the votes. Every indication is we do have the support, especially with the amendment,” Cutler said.

Klaudt dismissed the claims of confusion.

“They don’t give the members enough credit,” he said. “The bill died because people didn’t favor it. The only ones confused were the ones who lost.”

It will take a simple majority of the 70-member House to resurrect HB1075 for more debate today after the House convenes at 2 p.m. CST.

Before the tabling motions ended debate, HB1075 sponsor Rep. Larry Frost, R-Aberdeen, argued that clean air should be considered a human right.

“Three things are needed to sustain human life – water, food and air,” Frost said. “We seem to have a great concern for the water we drink and the food we eat. Shouldn’t we have the same concern for the air we breathe?”

Cutler argued for HB1075, citing the $214 estimate spent in South Dakota each year on smoking-related illnesses, including $45 million from Medicaid.

Rep. Jeff Haverly, R-Rapid City, argued that people who want to avoid smoke can simply not patronize establishments that allow smoking.

“The business owner does not have a lot of options. If South Dakota passes a law, he has to follow that law,” Haverly said. “Supporters of HB1075 do have options. Don’t cater to that business owner. They don’t have to go into that restaurant.”

Tuesday’s debate over banning smoking in bars coincided with the South Dakota Retail Liquor Dealers Association’s annual hog roast, an event at which lawmakers partake of a free meal provided by the state’s bar owners.

No matter what action the House takes on HB1075 today, the debate over smoking is not over. Rep. Don Van Etten, R-Rapid City, on Tuesday introduced HB1113 to add a $1 per pack tax on cigarettes, establish a 25 percent wholesale tax on all tobacco and to earmark $5 million annually from the proceeds for tobacco prevention. Any amount raised beyond $5 million would be dedicated to property-tax reduction.

Anti-smoking measure advances

January 24, 2005
The measure cleared the House Health Committee 9-4, setting up full House debate as early as Tuesday.
A 2002 state law prohibits smoking in most workplaces but exempts motels and businesses peddling alcoholic drinks and those primarily selling tobacco products.

HB1075 would eliminate those exemptions. Motels and other places that offer sleeping rooms would continue to be exempt.

Supporters said nonsmokers and bar workers should not have to endure secondhand smoke.

“Legal products come with legal limitations,” said Jennifer Stalley, lobbyist for the American Cancer Society.

“Eighty percent of us don’t smoke and shouldn’t be exposed to secondhand smoke, nor should we have to choose between earning a living and our health,” she added.

Stalley said similar bills will be considered this year in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Nebraska. Seven states already ban smoking in most businesses, she said.

Lobbyists for other health organizations said smoking causes many health problems, especially for children, and raises medical and insurance costs that are subsidized by nonsmokers.

Rep. Larry Frost, R-Aberdeen, prime sponsor of the bill, said seven states have similar laws. He said such a smoking ban also was implemented recently in Ireland and Italy.

Opponents said people simply can avoid bars where smoking is allowed, and those who work in bars can find jobs in businesses where smoking is taboo.

Larry Mann, lobbyist for the South Dakota Association of Video Lottery Establishments, warned legislators that a legal challenge to such a law is possible and would be expensive for the state.

Mann told the committee a smoking ban in Helena, Mont., is tied up in court. The measure prohibited smoking in all public buildings, but has been on hold.

Tim Kant, owner of Stogeez Cigar Lounge in Sioux Falls, said HB1075 would shut him down. The business, which offers alcoholic drinks and cigars, has been open for 10 months and is successful, he said.

Customers often remark about the smoke-free atmosphere in the lounge, which is kept that way by an expensive ventilation system, he said. Kant said he and his three sons run Stogeez, and it has no nonfamily employees, Kant said

“I don’t know how you can possibly pass a law that would make me close down my family business,” Kant said.

He refuted supporters’ statements that similar laws ban smoking in bars in seven states. Some of those laws provide special provisions for bars and cigar shops, he said.

Smoking and drinking are adult activities, and the Legislature should not interfere with those personal decisions, said Tim Dougherty, lobbyist for the state Retail Liquor Dealers Association.

“People that attend our establishments know that smoking is hazardous to their health,” he said. “It’s a conscious decision that people make.”

Such a state law would not apply on Indian reservations and would be an advantage for tribal casinos that compete with Deadwood casinos and video lottery businesses, Dougherty added.

It is unlikely that many people would travel long distances to Indian casinos because they allow smoking, responded Rep. Elizabeth Kraus, R-Rapid City. She argued that enforcement of such a law would not be difficult because nonsmokers would quickly turn in businesses that ignore the smoking ban.

Kraus said many people have urged her to support the bill and further restrict smoking in the workplace. “They’re upset about this.”

Government has no business trying to regulate personal habits, said Rep. Gary Jerke, R-Tripp.

“We’ve gotten ourselves to a point where we’re trying to protect ourselves from ourselves,” he said.

Jerke said he does not condone smoking but cannot support the bill.

“I’m torn between my head and my heart on this,” he said.

Stalley countered that smoking not only harms smokers but also harms others. “It’s the old adage that your rights stop where my nose starts,” she said.

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