Property Rights: MO St. Joseph



A St. Joseph resident who has taken on the City Council on past issues is gearing up for a new fight…

Smoking ban confusion persists

Confusion has risen on two conflicting ordinances that both ban smoking in some form.

It stems from a 21-year-old ordinance that requires restaurants to have smoking and nonsmoking sections. That ordinance, passed by the state of Missouri, is still listed in the city’s Code of Ordinances.

When Clean Air St. Joseph submitted its indoor smoking ban to the voters, there was not a clause that rescinded the previous ordinance.

Debra Bradley, health director, said despite two different laws, it’s the stricter of the two ordinances that “trumps” the other.

“We now have stricter rules, so that’s the rule we follow,” she said.

Voters passed the smoking ban in April with 53 percent. The law, which went into effect on June 7, bans smoking in all indoor places of employment.

The gaming floor at the St. Jo Frontier Casino is exempt.

Ms. Bradley said the mix-up came because the ordinance was written by a group not affiliated with the city, and therefore not familiar with municipal language.

Typically, if something is being amended, the city will add a section that repeals any ordinance or parts of an ordinance that are in conflict.

The City Council has the option now to remove the original law from the books, or just leave it as is.

“It would be good for the council to take action to clarify things,” Ms. Bradley said.

The issue was brought forward at last week’s City Council meeting by a few bar owners who are disgruntled by the ban. They believe the conflict means they should still allow smoking because the state ordinance does not designate a bar with 50 seats or less as a public place.

In response, at least two North End bars have decided to still allow smoking Monday at the advice of an attorney who claims the city cannot ticket someone under the guise of two conflicting ordinances.

Ms. Bradley said the city has yet to ticket anyone who is out of compliance of the ban, and only has plans to do so on a complaint-driven basis.

“We’re still focusing on education and giving people time to get used to the new law.”


Originally written By Kim Norvell – St. Joseph News-Press
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