Should local communities have the power to ban indoor smoking in public places?
A group of St. Charles County lawmakers apparently don't think so. Republican State Representative Kathie Conway has introduced a bill that would levy fines against cities and counties with local smoking bans. Seven other lawmakers from St. Charles County have signed on as co-sponsors.
The measure would force the communities to give up any property or sales tax revenues from businesses affected by the ban. The money would go to local school districts instead. Conway told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she plans to narrow that to include only bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, casinos and other entertainment-related businesses, because they're the ones who lose money because of smoking bans.
The bills opponents call it an attempt to intimidate local governments.
Only two communities in St. Charles County have smoking bans in place: O'Fallon and Lake St. Louis. St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis also have smoking bans in place. They would be subject to the fines too, since it's a state-wide measure.
Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement that his office received more than 175 complaints about the companies, Firebrand Group SL and Worldwide Commerce Associates. Consumers reported that the companies were trying to sell services such as cruise packages and tax services.
In addition to the cash penalty, the companies have agreed to stop making telemarketing calls to any consumer in the state of Missouri who has placed his or her phone number on the Missouri do-not-call list without the consumer's express consent, Koster's office said.
Missourians can sign up for the do-not-call hotline on Koster's website at ago.mo.gov or by calling (866) 662-2551.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Kehoe said Wednesday that he wants to advance the bill to the full Senate for debate. The legislation by Sen. Joe Keaveny has died each of the past three years in the transportation committee.
The Democratic senator from St. Louis is proposing to increase the fine from $10 to $50 for people caught not wearing seat belts in vehicles.
The percentage of people using seat belts in Missouri lags behind the national average, and Keaveny hopes a higher fine would encourage more people to buckle up.
The bill drew support Wednesday from police, insurance, doctors’ and trucking groups.