Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Second Thoughts?

The Hennepin County board is hedging on their smoking ban. From the STRIB:
In a sudden change of direction, Hennepin County moved closer Tuesday toward a partial rollback of a smoking ban that the state's largest county put into effect only four months ago.

The county has been under pressure to scale back the ban, and more than 100 smoking-ban opponents held signs and applauded Tuesday as commissioners voted overwhelmingly to undertake a study of the ban's economic impact.

It appeared to signal the first significant backlash to the wave of smoking bans adopted last year by metro area governments, including Minneapolis, Ramsey County and Bloomington.
So they're listening, and are going to actually take a sincere look at the fiscal impact of the ban.

But the political subplot is what is as interesting. Peter McLaughlin, campaigning to unseat incumbent Mayor Rybak, is not only in the forefront of the debate, but is viewed as the swing vote on the issue.
With the economic impact study expected to take perhaps a month, county officials said any change to the ordinance would likely not be voted on until the fall.

That timeline also would probably put the political spotlight on Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who is considered a swing vote on any exemptions to the ban and who is also campaigning to be Minneapolis' next mayor. McLaughlin, who approved the ban last fall, voted Tuesday for the economic study.

Although McLaughlin did not directly state his intentions, he clearly sympathized with the bar owners. "We got people who are bleeding here, so let's get on with this," McLaughlin said at one point during the meeting.

Said Dorfman: "Peter's the swing. Peter makes the difference on this."
I can appreciate the desire to pursue societal benefits by banning unhealthy substances in public places. However this is a legal substance, and no one is forcing anyone to enter these establishments unwillingly. Hennepin County is beginning to recognize their flawed policy, and if Minneapolis follows suit, we may have a compromise that many can except.


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