Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Up In Smoke!

This 57th Legislature in the State of Idaho has once again left us, tax-paying, citizens breathless... in more ways than one. If you remember during the second regular session of the legislature this year, an act by the State Affairs Committee relating to the Clean Indoor Air Act reached the Senate floor, providing that the prohibition on smoking could be extended to publicly-owned buildings. Great... for those of us non-smokers who would prefer to not have to be in that enviroment, but NOT great for those business owners who could no longer allow for their regular customers to smoke within the walls of their establishments.

A local resturant lost 60% of their regular business to this act of legislature. (Which I do admit is steep.) But... what I find to be unreasonable is that this very business in less than one week was able to find a loophole in the verbage of the bill. Now, I understand that state senators are not required to have a background in English or Composition (and they are from Idaho...) but come one, one week?

So I looked further into the dilemma. Senate Bill No. 1220 clearly states, in the Statement of Purpose, that "this legislation...regulating smoking in public places, publicly-owned buildings or offices, and at public meetings...sets standards to protect the public health, comfort and enviroment, the health of employees who work in public places, and the rights of citizens to breathe clean air." Minor detail of a section headed: PROHIBITIONS--EXCEPTIONS. The bill outlines exceptions to this rule including retail businesses engaged in the sale of tobacco, bowling alleys, and....drum roll please...."Buildings owned and operated by social, fraternal, or religious organizations when used by the membership of the organization."

So basically, if you have a membership to any certain place, that would literally define that place as a building owned and operated by a private organization...what's my point? Smoking is allowed in a private organization as defined by this fine legislative document. This creates a fine loophole for any establishment that would prefer smoking within their walls. All you have to do is define yourself as a social organization by accepting a membership fee.

I don't smoke. I don't like smoke. Why would I want to pay a membership fee to be surrounded by smoke? Sure, I understand a person has the right to sit in a cloud while they enjoy a meal, I don't get it, but I understand rights. But, why should I be subjected to pay that same membership fee, to eat the same food I did before the bill was passed, when I don't even smoke?

Could someone please explain to me why we put up with this? Not the smoking, to an extent not even the membership fee, but why do we have a congress writing and enacting bills if a week later there is a known loophole? In that case we could just skip the process altogether, save our senators a few months out of the year, and cut taxes. Or as it stands, lets just pay our membership fee to enjoy our meal in someone else's cloud. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

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