Saturday, December 29, 2007

Illinois Officials Big Failure - Critical Smoking Ban Questions Unanswered Days Before NYE Effective Date

Who is going to pay for enforcing this law? How many communities have extra money to cover cost of enforcement of smoking ban? What programs will suffer or be cut when communites are forced to pay for this unfunded mandate? Will police be forced to curtail street patrols so they can write tickets in bars?

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
By Kevin McDermott
Sunday, Dec. 23 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — This much is clear: After midnight on New Year's Eve, it
will be illegal to light a cigarette inside a restaurant, bar or other indoor
public place anywhere in Illinois.

But parts of Illinois' impending smoking ban remain hazy. It will go into
effect Jan. 1 with unsettled questions regarding outdoor dining patios,
merchant liability, the appeals process and even the wording of the
"no-smoking" signs that businesses will be required to post.

"There are some things that haven't been totally defined," said Barb Hohlt of
the St. Clair County Health Department, who cited especially "questions about
beer gardens and patios."

She added, "To be honest with you, we don't have the answers to those."

Normally, the state agency responsible for rolling out a new law (the Illinois
Department of Public Health, in the case of the smoking ban) proposes specific
rules so local officials and the public know exactly what to do. The proposed
rules have to be approved by a legislative body called the Joint Committee on
Administrative Rules, made up of 12 state legislators.

The process is to make sure that the agencies carry out new laws the way the

intended. The committee declined earlier this month to approve the proposed
rules from the Department of Public Health, saying they don't address key

Generally, the law bans all smoking in enclosed public places, all venues where
employees are present, and within 15 feet of entryways of those venues. The law
sets fines of up to $250 for individuals and $2,500 for businesses that defy
the ban.

But the proposed rules didn't address what happens if a smoking complaint
arises from something beyond a business' control — say, a non-patron smoking
outdoors but near a restaurant doorway. And there's no administrative appeals
process for a business that believes it's been wrongly fined.

Also, the proposed rules don't provide exemptions for situations that obviously
weren't the target of the law, including several smoking research programs
being conducted by universities. State Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Pontiac, a
committee member, worried that the law might bar such research. He added that
the smoking ban law was poorly drafted and the proposed rules inadequate.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Public Health is re-working its proposed
rules, and the committee could approve them at its next meeting Jan. 9. But
that means local officials and businesses will still have to feel their way
around the new law for more than a week, at least, with some details still

Toni Corona of the Madison County Public Health Department called the snag "a
hiccup in the process." She said it wouldn't impede the ban locally, but had
complicated issues such as what kind of "no smoking" signs businesses have to

There also are quandaries about outdoor restaurant areas that are partly
enclosed, an issue the only vaguely addresses.

Hohlt, of the St. Clair County Health Department, is refraining from even
trying to answer that question until the rules clarify it.

"We don't want to cause a local business to construct things (for smokers) that
don't comply with the law," she said.

A spokesman for the Illinois Restaurant Association, Larry Suffredin, said that
the snag was another reminder that "state government doesn't always function
well," but that he didn't expect restaurants to have any serious problems
implementing it. "The law is clear: There's no smoking as of Jan. 1."