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Amendments to smoking ban could be considered

December 24th, 2010 Posted in Smoking ban Buy cheap cigarettes online Tags:

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The South Dakota Legislature does have the authority to amend the new smoking ban that was approved by voters Nov. 2. That’s the view of Kea Warne, the elections supervisor in the South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office. While municipal governments have to wait a year to amend laws enacted by voters, Warne said, state laws created by the Legislature or the public can be altered by lawmakers at any time.

“I don’t know of anything that would prevent the Legislature from look ing at this,” she said.

The owner and operator of Thirsty’s, a Mitchell bar and casino has raised the idea of the Legislature modifying the smoking ban during meetings of the Mitchell Planning and Zoning Commission and the Mitchell City Council.

Doug Aslesen asked the council Monday night to consider little or no enforcement of the smoking ban for up to 90 days to give the Legislature — which convenes next month — chance to act. The council declined to direct police officers to do so.

Aslesen has built a smoking shel ter next to his bar. The shelter had four walls but one had a 6-inch gap in it, which he said meant the struc ture was not enclosed. The smoking areas must have an open wall according to the interpretation of Davison County State’s Attorney Pat Smith.

Aslesen had one of the walls removed Tuesday to comply with Davis’ view of the law, although Aslesen said he still disagrees with that interpretation and hopes the Legislature modifies the law and allows smoking in some areas of bars and casinos.

While the Legislature could alter the law, state Sen. Mike Vehle doubts it will.

“I’ve heard a little discussion but very little,” said Vehle, R-Mitchell. “I’ve heard some folks mention it but I haven’t heard a lot of people.”

He said since the ban passed by an almost two-toone margin — it was approved 64-36 percent — it seems unlikely state lawmakers would want to alter it so soon.

“I think it would be very difficult after something has passed by such a large margin to change something that quickly,” Vehle said.

Even if it did, he said he doubts incoming Gov. Dennis Daugaard would sign such a law. That means the Legislature would need to pass the bill by a two-thirds total in both houses to overcome a potential veto.

Vehle proposed two amendments when the law was crafted in 2009. Vehle said he proposed allowing casinos to provide closed-off areas for smokers as long as the area had a separate ventilation system.

Vehle also proposed allowing smoking in bars that don’t sell prepared food. It was quickly dubbed the “pickled pig feet amendment,” he said, since bars that sold those kinds of foods, along with chips, pretzels and other items, could have potentially permitted smoking. Both amendments were defeated, Vehle said.

The 2009 Legislature passed a ban on smoking in bars, casinos and restaurants with alcohol licenses.

It was quickly referred to a vote by smoking ban opponents a few days after the ban took effect.

The issue was temporarily knocked off the ballot by Secretary of State Chris Nelson, who said too many of the signatures on petitions were from people who were not registered voters.

But Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl reversed Nelson’s decision in November 2009 and said there were sufficient signatures, placing the ban on the ballot.

The referred law widened the state’s ban on smoking to apply to restaurants, bars, package liquor stores, Deadwood casinos and video lottery establishments.

It required owners, managers and operators of places where smoking is prohibited to inform violators of the smoking ban. The ban does not apply to tobacco shops, hotel rooms designated as smoking rooms and existing cigar bars.

Vehle said the Legislature may consider laws defining what a wall is, to determine how much space must be open.

Other bills on the issue may also surface, he said.

Vehle said he thinks the law will be allowed to stand but he said anything can and often does happen during a session.

“Any legislator can introduce a bill and there are times that can surprise a person on what can pass,” he said. “I’ve seen things change.”

James Fry, director of the Legislative Research Council, which aids legislators in drafting bills, said he could not comment if any legislation is being prepared to amend the smoking ban.

Fry said while there is considerable discussion about that “in the rumor mill,” a legislator will have to announce plans for such a bill.

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