Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances

News Summary

City Vs. State

Publication Date: 2007-11-01
  • Author:Jon Zemke
  • Publication:Metromode

Leigh Greden wants to ban smoking in bars and restaurants in his hometown. He is looking forward to the day when he can walk into the eatery of his choosing and come out smelling like something other than an ash tray or worrying about his lungs looking like one. But the Ann Arbor City Councilman knows there is a difference between what he wants and what will happen in the foreseeable future.

Greden says his constituents frequently approach him about the initiative to prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants. In their minds, if the state legislators can't get their act together enough to make Michigan the latest state to enact a ban why not start at the grass roots level in Ann Arbor where there appears to be a groundswell of support for such a measure...

One of the things local municipalities can't do is ban smoking in restaurants or bars. Or so says Michigan judicial system.

Marquette outlawed smoking in restaurants in 1997, which prompted a lawsuit from local restaurateurs and the Michigan Restaurant Association. The local circuit court, state court of appeals and state Supreme Court ruled against the no-smoking ordinance, putting the decision in the state's hands. That means this issue and many others have found themselves on the backburner while the state legislature continues to cook the state budget's books, a seemingly endless process...

The same can be said with the proposed smoking ban. It's much easier for the grass roots to roll that boulder up the local hill than the mountain that is state government. Greden practically guarantees smoking bans in bars and restaurant in not only Ann Arbor but also Washtenaw County if local officials and residents could decide.

"It's a lot easier to influence local government than state government,"Greden says. "It's a lot easier to speak to me."...

Ray Basham doesn't want to start his own restaurant. The state Senator, D-Taylor, just wants to be able to go into any one of his choosing and not breathe in someone else's toxic discharge.

Basham has been fighting for a law prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants since he came into the state House in 1997 and is one of the main backers of the initiative in Michigan today...

The success of the bill in Michigan is what's in question right now. Earlier this year, when Democrats took control of the state House, the bill made its way out of committee in the state House and Basham expects a vote on it by end of the year. If and when the bill is passed by the state House, it must navigate through the Republican-controlled state Senate before it can go to the governor's desk. That means the legislation still has a long way to go, but Basham remains optimistic.

"I'm the eternal optimist," Basham says. "I'm hopeful we'll not only get a hearing but a vote and a new law by the end of the year that will make everyone breathe a little easier."