Monday, October 26, 2009

Smoking Ban Perfected by BOA

On Friday the Board of Alderman voted 20-7 to "perfect" the smoking ban bill. "Perfected" means this is the bill they will vote to pass or fail. They will amend it no further. They have not yet voted to make it a law.

The bill had five proposed amendments over a three hour plus debate. Of the five only one was passed. The amendment increased the square footage from 1500 to 2000 and further excluded bathroom, storage and kitchen space from the total amount. The exclusion is for 5 years and no one under 21 can be allowed to enter. Food has to be incidental (although that is not defined as a percentage).

Of note, Alderwomen Triplett introduced a bill to pull out the casino exemption. It was almost a complete role reversal in voting. Those that support a ban voted against pulling the exemption and those that were against the ban voted to pull the exemption(note that not all voted that way). It seems that at a certain dollar point they no longer buy into the health argument. That dollar point just happens to be beyond restaurants and most bars. Probably the most stunning was Phylis Young. Her district represents a large percentage of restaurants and bars such as Soulard and Downtown. Most of those will be covered by the ban. When the amendment came up to strip the exclusion she fought hard to keep it, yet she easily voted to ban smoking everywhere.

Quite frankly I understand why they don't want to ban smoking at the Casino. Its simply money the city can't afford to give up. When Illinois banned smoking, the admission tax the city collects went from $5 million to $10 million. They would lose millions beyond that in retail tax and employment tax. Yet the city is still going to lose revenue from bars and restaurants. Those employees that chose to work at a bar or restaurant will be just as unemployed. I guess freedom comes at a price and its more than most of us can afford.

Tony Palazzolo