St. Joseph Fails To Pass Smoking Ban

Date 2014/1/8 4:58:00 | Topic: News

According to the St. Joe News Press, the St. Joseph City Council failed to pass an indoor smoking ban that was brought forward by a community initiative petition.

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The decision was made by a final vote on Monday. Councilman Gary Roach entered the only “yes” vote to pass the proposal as it was presented by Smoke-Free St. Joseph.

Now, the City Council will hear an ordinance at its next meeting on Jan. 21 that will place the initiative on the April 8 ballot.

Of the three council members who spoke out on the topic, all wanted to ensure the choice went to the voters.

“I believe the citizens of St. Joseph want this to appear on a ballot so they can say whether they want it or not,” said councilwoman Joyce Starr.

In November, Smoke-Free St. Joseph submitted a petition that proposed to ban smoking in all indoor public places. The ordinance would exempt 10 percent of hotel rooms and private clubs when no employees are present.

In addition, the proposal would allow smoking on the St. Jo Frontier Casino gaming floor, but only until a casino in either Jackson, Platte or Clay counties goes smoke-free.

The last item was a point of contention at the City Council meeting on Monday. Affinity Gaming’s lawyer Jerry Riffel told the council he believes that clause in the proposal is illegal and unenforceable because it puts the interests of St. Joseph into the hands of another municipality. In addition, the clause is “too vague” and can be rescinded when any municipality in those counties bans smoking on a casino gaming floor — even if that community doesn’t have a casino.

“It’s poorly worded,” he said. “It’s attack-able under the United States Constitution.”
Once the City Council chose not to pass the ordinance as is, Mr. Riffel continued to advocate for a change in the petition’s wording. However, City Council members Jeff Penland and Byron Myers advised him that he needs to take up specific changes with the original petition committee.
According to the City Charter, Article XI, “Initiative and Referendum,” changes can only come if the committee withdrawals its original petition, makes edits and gathers another 2,190 signatures; the City Council cannot make changes to the ordinance.

Mr. Riffel said Affinity Gaming is willing to negotiate the language with the committee.
“There’s really not any room for us to do that,” said Dr. Jane Schwabe, co-chair of Smoke-Free St. Joseph, reiterating that they can’t change the language without drastic measures.

Dr. Schwabe questioned the timing of the casino’s public concerns, adding that the wording “may be vague, but it’s not illegal.” Plus, she said, the argument is a moot point because she strongly believes other Missouri communities will not ban smoking at their casinos.

“They certainly had enough time to bring up their concerns before now,” she said.

Several council members hinted that they could change the parameters of the ordinance if it’s passed by the voters on April 8. Lisa Robertson, city attorney, said there is no specific section in the City Charter that explicitly prohibits — or, for that matter, allows — them to do that.
Councilman P.J. Kovac said he would be willing to revisit the ordinance if the casino’s exemption was rescinded by another community.



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