On the suggestion of Barnes County States Attorney Lee Grossman, the county commission decided not to pass a resolution that would have acted preemptively to protect local control over more restrictive secondhand smoke measures if an anti-smoking bill is passed by North Dakota Voters this November.
“I don’t want you guys to make a decision you’ll regret later,” Grossman told the commission at Tuesday’s meeting.
The State’s Attorney said the resolution’s wording specifically supports passing Measure 4, “The North Dakota Smoking Ban Initiative,” which would ban smoking in public places and most places of employment across the state.
Earlier this year the county received several requests from both sides to pass a resolution on Measure 2, which would have repealed property taxes. Grossman advised against using public funds and public time to support a position on a ballot measure.
“We had a big dust-up this summer with people asking for your support or rejection of Measure 2,” Grossman said. “I think the timing of this resolution is bad for you to make any type of decision. If you want to take it up after the election, I have no problem with it. But the timing is horrible and we just dealt with this issue over the summer.”
The resolution was presented to the commission by Barnes County Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Vicki Voldal Rosenau at the Sept. 18 commission meeting, and was similar to a resolution that had passed 10 years ago on June 8, 2002.
Rosenau said special interest groups aim to get state laws passed that relate to local control. For example, she said groups will lobby to get preemptive clauses in the legislation that would allow exemptions for smoking in bars.
Smoking in Valley City bars has been a hot topic of discussion on the Times-Record’s website (www.times-online.com ) and the TR’s Facebook page. As discussion of Measure 4 lingered between agenda items at the commission meeting, it became a topic of discussion in the commission chambers.
Commissioner John Froelich, who supports passing Measure 4, said passing the state law would help bars that want to ban smoking on their own.
After going smoke-free earlier this year, Labor Club owner Kerry Anderson told the Times-Record his establishment would allow smoking again after having some of the worst business the Valley City bar had ever seen.
“Everybody has to have a level playing field,” Froelich said. “The way it goes now, one goes smoke free and the other one doesn’t, in a small town, they can’t do it.”
Commissioner Eldred Knutson said customers should have the choice to patronize a bar that allows smoking.
“You need less government regulations and rules to dictate to people what they’ve got to do,” Knutson said. “If one goes smoke-free and the other one doesn’t, then you’ve got a choice... I’m not for smoking in bars, but I believe in the rights of people to make up their own mind without the government telling them what to do.”
Froelich responded, “I agree with one thing, you can’t pass enough laws to cover all the idiots because there’s so damn many idiots around.”