2013-04-21 P-D: “Smoking-ban cities would face tax penalty under House bill”

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Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page included a Fair or Foul comment by Kevin Horrigan, Deputy Editorial Page Editor (please see below). It focuses on the effort to penalize local jurisdictions that have addressed, or may in future address, the issue of smoke-fouled indoor air in public places and workplaces.

Below that are appended a long list of news outlets which have commented on this story. Rep. Kathie Conway has certainly garnered a lot of attention by merely wanting to protect private businesses from busybodies wanting to limit how a legal product can be used. Next thing you know, we’ll be shutting down or penalizing private businesses for allowing lewd behavior that people find offensive. A simple solution for that is to just put up a sign!

FOUL: Bossy is as bossy does

Because they believe that local governments shouldn’t dictate what owners of private businesses can do, a group of St. Charles County state lawmakers want to dictate to local governments about how they split up local tax money. See, only some people get to be bossy.
         Missouri is one of the last places in the country where indoor-smoking bans are still controversial. In St. Charles County, O’Fallon and Lake Saint Louis have adopted such ordinances. A countywide indoor smoking ban has been stalled for a couple of years.
         If House Bill 1021 passes — and that’s not likely, inasmuch as there are only four weeks left in the session — any jurisdiction that bans smoking in workplaces would have to forfeit all sales and property tax revenue from those businesses. The funds would go to local school districts instead.
         “If these municipalities and counties are going to hurt the income of small businesses, maybe their bottom line should be affected as well,” Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, the bill’s lead sponsor, told the Post-Dispatch’s Mark Schlinkmann.
         As shoddily written, HB 1021 would apply to all businesses in the county. Ms. Conway said she plans to rework it so it applies only to places that serve food and beverages. That’s good: Major employers tend to like smoking bans, and you wouldn’t want them to get the idea that the county is run by Neanderthals.

— Kevin Horrigan

My thanks to Stan Cowan for the following relevant trove of references and articles which he sent today. Even the San Francisco Chronicle picked up on it. To anyone in a state with progressive laws on smoke-free air this must seem pretty weird.

Jefferson City News Tribune
April 22, 2013
http://www.newstribune.com/news/2013/apr/22/lawmaker-seeks-penalty-smoking-bans/
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The growing number of Missouri communities banning smoking in public places could face stiff financial penalties under a proposal from a state lawmaker.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Kathie Conway of St. Charles County would require cities and counties to turn over to local school districts the property and sales tax revenue they get from businesses affected by tobacco restrictions.
“If these municipalities and counties are going to hurt the income of small businesses, maybe their bottom line should be affected as well,” Conway said.
Conway told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/ZzXbGi ) that she is seeking to protect the rights of the owners of bars, restaurants and other businesses to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking.
The bill introduced April 2 is opposed by the Missouri Municipal League and anti-smoking groups.
Richard Sheets, deputy director of the Missouri Municipal League, said the measure would punish all residents of a city or county by denying them tax revenue.
“This is a local issue that should be vetted through the local process of elected representatives,” Sheets said.
Stan Cowan, a board member with Tobacco-Free Missouri, said the bill “is essentially trying to intimidate city and county governments to slow down or not pass smoke-free ordinances.”
Seven other Republican House members from St. Charles County are co-sponsors with Conway. The other co-sponsor is St. Louis Democrat Penny Hubbard.
O’Fallon and Lake St. Louis have smoking bans in St. Charles County. The St. Charles City Council will hold hearings next month on a smoking ban that likely would exempt Ameristar Casino.
The St. Charles County Council in 2012 voted to put on the November ballot a two-question countywide smoking ban package. However, it was blocked by the county elections director and a circuit judge. The sponsor wants to try again next year.
St. Louis city and county have smoking bans.

Missouri House bill proposes penalty for smoking bans
Penalties proposed for communities with smoking bans.

Staff St. Louis Business Journal
April 22,2013
http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/morning_call/2013/04/missouri-house-bill-proposes-penalty.html

A group of St. Charles County legislators are proposing a measure that would financially penalize cities and counties with local smoking bans.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles County, would require cities or counties to turn over all property and sales tax revenue collected from businesses affected by the smoking ban to local school districts, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Conway said she’s trying to protect the rights of small businesses. The measure is opposed by the Missouri Municipal League and anti-smoking groups.

Bill seeks to burn cities with smoking bans

Staff Kansas City Business Journal
Apr 22, 2013
http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/blog/morning_call/2013/04/bill-seeks-to-burn-cities-with-smoking.html

A bill submitted in the Missouri House would punish cities and counties with smoking bans by taking away some tax revenue, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The bill by a group of St. Charles County representatives would force cities and counties with smoking bans to turn over to school districts sales taxes from businesses affected by the bans. Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, said that if municipalities and counties want to hurt the income of bars and restaurants, their bottom lines also should take a hit, the report says.
The bill, introduced April 2, has little chance of passing. It is seen as a message to St. Charles County, which is considering a smoking ban.

Missouri Rep. Kathie Conway Proposes Penalty for Cities With Smoking Bans
By Sam Levin
Tue., Apr. 23 2013
Riverfront Times
http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2013/04/kathie_conway_smoking_bans_missouri_penalities.php

Opponents of smoking bans in Missouri argue that the government should not regulate the policies of private businesses. And now, Missouri State Rep. Kathie Conway has her own government proposal that she says would send that message very clearly: Punish cities that enact overreaching no-smoking ordinances. How?
Take away the tax revenue the city gets from establishments hurt by the smoking bans.
“The goal is to protect private property rights,” Conway, a Republican from St. Charles, tells Daily RFT. “I just really wanted to get the conversation going.”
On the latter, she’s definitely had some success.
Conway’s House Bill 1021, which had a hearing last week, is pretty short and simple in its current draft form. It says:
If any political subdivision prohibits the use of tobacco in a private business…all tax revenue generated by the business through property taxes and county sales taxes shall be remitted to the local school district in lieu of the political subdivision.
In other words, if signed into law, it means local municipalities and counties would lose tax revenue if they successfully passed smoking bans.
The bill has nothing to do with her opinion on smoking, she says.
“I just want to be absolutely clear,” she tells us, “I disagree with smoking. I think smoking is a bad thing to do. I’m not promoting tobacco.”
What she is promoting is the rights of private businesses to allow this kind of activity on their premises if they choose, she says.
Since it got attention last week, opponents — including cities interested in smoking bans and anti-smoking advocacy groups — have argued that it’s a misguided attempt to punish cities working to improve public health.
Redirecting that tax revenue, critics say, would hurt municipal services and thus negatively impact all residents of a city with a ban.
Conway says that she has been working on a revision of the draft that would specify that this would only apply to “entertainment” businesses that specifically want to allow smoking and are hurt by a ban. That category, she says, would include casinos, restaurants, bowling alleys and more.
Conway argues that ordinances that give exemptions to certain kinds of businesses are not fair.
“I just want to try and make it more of a level playing field,” she says.
Simply put, government shouldn’t get in the way, Conway argues.
Responses have been pretty evenly split between support and opposition, she says. “I’ve heard from a lot of nonsmokers…that say it should be the business owners’ right.”
Others concerned with the ill health impacts of smoking, however, aren’t pleased, she says.
It’s unclear if the proposal will get far in this final stretch of the legislative session. But if it doesn’t advance, she may try again.
“I’m not sure I’m finished if it doesn’t go forward this year,” she says.
Here’s the latest available draft. (Original bill was shown)

Mo. lawmaker wants to penalize cities that ban smoking
Bill bans cities, counties from using tax money from affected businesses

KMBC – Kansas City MO April 21, 2013

http://www.kmbc.com/news/kansas-city/Mo-lawmaker-wants-to-penalize-cities-that-ban-smoking/-/11664182/19835906/-/lc6cupz/-/index.html

KOAM – Joplin MO
April 21, 2012
http://www.koamtv.com/story/22035193/missouri-lawmaker-seeks-penalty-for-smoking-bans

KY3 – Springfield MO
April 21, 2013
http://www.ky3.com/news/ky3-missouri-lawmaker-seeks-penalty-for-smoking-bans-20130421,0,3338866.story?track=rss

KMBC – Kansas City MO
April 21, 2013
http://www.kmbz.com/pages/16103948.php?contentType=4&contentId=12847312

KTTS – Springfield MO
April 21, 2013
http://www.ktts.com/news/204003421.html

KRCG – Jefferson City MO
April 21, 2013

WGEM – Quincy IL
April 21, 2013
http://www.wgem.com/story/22035193/missouri-lawmaker-seeks-penalty-for-smoking-bans

KTLO – Mountain Home AR
April 21, 2013
http://ktlo.com/wire/newsmon/03235_Missouri_lawmakerr_seeks_penalty_for_smoking_bans_054339.php

KSPR – Springfield MO
April 22, 2013
http://www.kspr.com/news/links/sns-ap-mo–right-now-20130421,0,6728293.story
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —The growing number of Missouri communities banning smoking in public places could face stiff financial penalties under a proposal from a state lawmaker.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Kathie Conway of St. Charles County would require cities and counties to turn over to local school districts the property and sales tax revenue they get from businesses affected by tobacco restrictions.

Conway told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she is seeking to protect the rights of the owners of bars, restaurants and other businesses to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking.

The bill introduced April 2 is opposed by the Missouri Municipal League and anti-smoking groups. Stan Cowan of Tobacco-Free Missouri says the bill seeks to intimidate cities and counties considering smoke-free ordinances.

Missouri lawmaker seeks penalty for smoking bans
Columbia Missourian
April 21, 2013
http://www.columbiamissourian.com/a/161127/missouri-lawmaker-seeks-penalty-for-smoking-bans/

Southeast Missourian – Cape Girardeau MO
April 21, 2013
http://www.semissourian.com/story/1961759.html

San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, April 21, 2013
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Missouri-lawmaker-seeks-penalty-for-smoking-bans-4451441.php#ixzz2R9ucmPZm

The Republic
April 21, 2013
Columbus IN
http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/3fccac4441004cb0ad6d57c01c4b6e33/MO–Tobacco-Bans-Law

New England Cable News
April 21, 2013
Newton MA
http://www.necn.com/04/21/13/Missouri-lawmaker-seeks-penalty-for-smok/landing_nation.html?&apID=3fccac4441004cb0ad6d57c01c4b6e33

BND – O’Fallon IL
April 21, 2013
http://www.bnd.com/2013/04/21/2586556/missouri-lawmaker-seeks-penalty.html

3 responses to “2013-04-21 P-D: “Smoking-ban cities would face tax penalty under House bill”

  1. Kevin H wrote, “Missouri is one of the last places in the country where indoor-smoking bans are still controversial.”

    Odd. I thought there were at least 20 to 30 states where smoking was still permitted in some bars and/or casinos?

    Does Kevin have information I don’t have? Or is he just making things up?

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: Focus on the “where indoor-smoking bans are still controversial.”

  2. Mogasp, you wrote, “Even the San Francisco Chronicle picked up on it. To anyone in a state with progressive laws on smoke-free air this must seem pretty weird.”

    Doesn’t California still allow smoking in bars with less than six employees? If so, do you consider that to be a progressive smoke-free law? If not, do you know when they changed the law?

    😕
    MJM

    mogasp: I have no information on that so cannot comment. You’d have to check with Americans for Nonsmokers Rights.

  3. Mogasp, you wrote, “Focus on the “where indoor-smoking bans are still controversial.” That’s what I was doing I thought? Are you saying smoking bans are *not* controversial in the 20 to 30 states that still allow it in bars or casinos or clubs etc? That the status quo is accepted?

    Not sure what you’re saying there? I was saying that in states without total bar/club/casino bans there was likely still a fair amount of controversy… at least unless the antismoking advocates in those states have simply given up — which I kinda doubt would happen unless their money got cut off.

    (And no — that’s not in any way aimed at Mogasp: Mogasp is one of the few major smoke-free voices out there who does *not* feed at the antismoking money trough for their living.)

    😕
    MJM

    mogasp reply: What came to mind when thinking of places in Missouri where smoke-free air is still not the norm and with which I’m familiar was St. Charles County (and City). These are very conservative areas that have resisted such efforts for decades, and remain entrenched in their views. I’m glad I don’t often have to visit them because it’s hard to find a smoke-free restaurant if one wants to dine out.Even Jefferson City where the State Capitol is located has a comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance now. And state office buildings have been smoke-free for some time.

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