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This story made page A2 of today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, keeping the secondhand smoke issue on the front burner. The Ameristar Casino is evidently not sitting on its hands, acting once again to try and head off a public vote on this issue. Let’s hope the judge ruling on this next Tuesday will do the right thing, despite the howls of protest expected from opponents of smoke-free indoor air.
BY MARK SCHLINKMANN > firstname.lastname@example.org > 636-255-7233
ST. CHARLES COUNTY • An anti-smoking activist launched a last-ditch legal push Friday to return a countywide smoking ban package to the Nov. 6 ballot.
Circuit Judge Ted House set a hearing for Tuesday morning on the issue. Tuesday also is the last day under state law that a judge can add something to the ballot.
The suit was filed following County Councilman Joe Cronin’s suggestion last week that a public health group should go to court on behalf of the propositions after the council declined to sue Chrismer. Young, of St. Charles, didn’t say Friday whether any such group was helping to pay his legal fees.
The council voted Aug. 27 to put the two questions on the ballot, but Chrismer refused to do so, citing inconsistent and confusing wording. Young asserted in his suit that Chrismer has a “clear legal duty” to follow the council’s directive and is “unilaterally denying voters the right to vote” on the measures.
Chrismer insists that he has such authority.
Meanwhile, Troy Stremming, an Ameristar Casino executive, said his company plans to press its contention at the court hearing that the Council’s propositions are legally flawed. Ameristar and a bowling alley owner had filed suit against the ballot plan prior to Chrismer’s action.
Under the council’s plan, residents in November would first vote on a countywide ban on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces with no exceptions.
A second proposition would exempt any facility where all patrons and employees are over 21; that would cover bars and casino gambling floors. The same measure would exempt private clubs and up to 20 percent of rooms in a hotel.
Ameristar officials and other critics of the council’s approach worry that voters might approve the ban but defeat the exemptions.
The council chairwoman said the council didn’t want to sue another county official because taxpayers would have to pay legal bills for both sides. The council will consider on Monday night a bill to correct the wording inconsistencies cited by Chrismer.
If a judge overrules Chrismer, it’s unclear who would pay the $300,000-plus cost of reprinting the countywide ballots.