Two County Smoking Bans Could Be On November Ballot
Councilman Joe Cronin, District 1, introduces a bill to place smoking ban before voters. Another smoking ban amendment has been proposed by a political action committee funded by Ameristar Casino.
St. Charles County voters may get the chance to vote on two different proposed smoking bans this fall, one of which is backed by Ameristar Casino, another proposed by a councilman.
County Councilman Joe Cronin, R-district 1, introduced a bill on Monday that puts the smoking ban before voters on the Nov. 6 ballot. His bill includes exemptions for casinos, private residences, private clubs with no employees and retail tobacco stores. This is his third time trying to place a smoking ban on a ballot. (Read about his earlier efforts here and here).
Cronin said the bill is modeled after an earlier bill that was vetoed by County Executive Steve Ehlmann, with a few changes. He said he was prompted to propose it again to give voters a choice in November.
"I think voters deserve something better than a health ordinance that was written by the casino," Cronin said. "That's why I wrote this ordinance."
The county council is expected to vote on Aug. 27 on whether Cronin's proposed ban should appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
A smoking ban proposed by the Committee for Economic Liberty, a political action committee, would also exempt Ameristar Casino, as well as businesses open to people ages 21 and over, among other exemptions, according to an article in the Suburban Journals. Ameristar Casino has donated $100,000 to the PAC.
"The issue isn't all about smoking, it's about restricting property rights," Carl Bearden told the Journal.
Ameristar Casino General Manager Jim Franke has said previously that a smoking ban would reduce Ameristar’s revenue by at least 20 percent.
Bearden's committee submitted petitions with more than 22,856 signatures to the St. Charles County Election Authority on Aug. 8 to have their proposed ban put on the ballot.
Bob Hoeynck, associate county counselor, told the council that the language in the initiative petition may not be legally sufficient. Hoeynck was asked by the Election Authority to evaluate the petition.
Hoeynck said he identified two types of problems with the petition, the first, that the petition submitted doesn't set out the entire amendment in its full text, and secondly, that the proposal doesn't contain a statement that explains what the limits are between a ban in unincorporated and incorporated parts of the county.
The Election Authority was about one-third of the way finished checking signatures in the petition, Hoeynck said.
The Election Authority would likely make a decision about whether the proposed ban would be on the ballot by Aug. 28, the final day to have items placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If the Election Authority's decision is challenged in court, a judge could order the Election Authority to place an item on the Nov. 6 ballot anytime before Sept. 25, which is six weeks before the election, said County Counselor Joanne Leykum.
County Councilwoman Nancy Matheny said everyone on the council has different opinions about smoking bans and the council will have to talk over the next two weeks about whether they can reach agreement on Cronin's proposed smoking ban exemptions.
"We have people who want no regulation of smoking and we have people who want total regulation of smoking or a smoking ban," she said. "Our goal will be to find out if we can get four without a veto or five so a veto wouldn't matter.
Cronin's Proposed Smoking Ban:
The County Council would have to approve placing the charter amendment to ban smoking on the ballot. Here's a summary of Cronin's proposed language to appear on the ballot.
Smoking would be prohibited in:
- Enclosed public places including theaters, bars, bingo facilities, restaurants, sports arenas, among others;
- Outdoor places including outdoor arenas, stadiums, amphitheaters;
- Enclosed residential facilities including rooms in nursing homes, and 80 percent of motel and hotel rooms.
- Private residences;
- Private clubs with no employees present;
- Retail tobacco stores used for sale of smoking materials where more than 70 percent of business is for smoking,
- Gambling facilities until all licensed gambling facilities located in the relevant area are obligated to prohibit smoking.