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Cigar bar bill advances in Legislature

Publication Date: 2015-02-04
  • Author:Zach Pluhacek
  • Publication:Lincoln Journal Star

Smoking in cigar bars is a step closer to being re-legalized in Nebraska.

Lawmakers advanced a bill (LB118) with that intent Wednesday, and will need to vote twice more before it reaches the governor's desk to be signed into law.

Supporters hope the move will address a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling that undid cigar bars' exemption to the 2008 Clean Indoor Air Act. The court found the exemption violated the law's intent to protect people from secondhand smoke.

"We want to go back to status quo," said Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill, sponsor of LB118.

Larson's staff and the cigar bars' lobbyist are consulting with constitutional experts to ensure the bill adjusts the act's language to satisfy the court, he said.

But at least two senators -- Bob Krist of Omaha and Merv Riepe of Ralston -- urged caution.

"It's a fine line," Krist said later Wednesday.

He pointed to the ongoing legal battle over another bill, his own, that created a 500-foot buffer zone for protesters at funerals in the state. Opponents have accused the state of targeting a particular group of protesters. A trial in the case is set for March.

In addition, Krist said, Larson "poked the Supreme Court in the eye" with statements he's made to media about the cigar bar ruling. Krist cosigned Larson's bill at first but has since withdrawn his name.

Larson has said there's a "sense of urgency" surrounding the bill because cigar bar owners are losing business while smoking is prohibited.

"I don't share the same sense of urgency," Krist said...

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