The Committee for Economic Liberty has withdrawn the initiative petition seeking to place a smoking ban on the November 6, 2012 ballot. The ideal situation would be we didn’t have people attacking the property rights of business owners and no petition would be required. As long as there are groups attacking these rights, we will be helping to fight against those attacks.
We submitted almost 23,000 signatures to the election authority but when the signatures were verified, we came up slightly short of the total required. The issue was very popular in attracting signatures as demonstrated by the fact over half the invalid signatures were from unregistered voters!
It’s interested as we saw those who oppose smoking bans not wanting to sign the petition. They believed that government should not be intruding on business decisions. I agree. The unfortunate fact is that government has the view that they have the right to do so under the guise of “public health”.
The fact is public health is a red herring. Even in today’s environment, no one is forced to breath in second-hand smoke. Customers who object can simply choose not to patronize the business. Employees who choose not to be exposed can find another service sector job. Even during the worst of the economic downturns service sector jobs were available. Everyone who breathes in second-hand smoke at any bar, restaurant, etc. does so at their own choosing.
Once the anti-smoking ban people understood that yes, the proposal did ban smoking in every business location in St Charles County but allowed business owners to make business decisions as to whether they wanted to allow smoking in their establishments, they were more inclined to support the measure.
Even some pro-smoking ban people supported the measure. The requirement for signage on smoking establishments and the fact that all businesses would be required to go smoke free unless they decided to take the measures contained in the proposal and that many businesses would likely not wish to go to the expense to be a smoking establishment made sense to them.
When people are presented with the facts that the proposal is a balanced approach to the scorched earth polices supported by Councilman Cronin and others, they were inclined to support the petition. Only the most zealot opponents of property rights remain opposed to the reasonable solution.
The Committee has withdrawn the petition and requested the signatures be returned. The County Charter does not place a time limit on the collection of signatures. We believe that the signatures should be returned. The Committee does not consider litigation as our first choice but if we must, we will stand for the rights of the citizens who signed the petition and demand the County abide by the Charter provisions.
Councilman Cronin’s bill will be up Monday night. It is a bad bill and contains a number of problems areas. Personally, I don’t see how the County Executive can sign this bill as it makes no appreciable changes to the first bill he vetoed.
In addition, Councilman Cronin violated the provisions of the Charter in introducing his bill. The St Charles County Charter, Section 2.601 reads in part:
Each shall be in written or printed form, and shall be read aloud in its entirety the first time, or if more than two (2) pages in length, the first reading may be by title only if written copies are made available to the public through the Registrar’s office at least thirty-six (36) hours prior to the time scheduled for the first reading.
The result of sunshine request to the County Registrar’s office revealed the ordinance in question was not delivered to the office until 5:12pm on Friday, August 10, 2012. The office hours are 8-5pm. The bill was not posted on-line and was not available to the public 36 hours in advance of the meeting on Monday, August 13, 2012. As I said earlier, I would think the County Executive would veto the bill for the same reasons he did before. However, if he doesn’t, we will insist that the County abide by the Charter requirements for the introductions of bills.