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October 22, 2014

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Senate proceeding with smoking ban hearing despite lawsuit

Bill would permit smoking in certain bars and businesses

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CARSON CITY – A Senate committee intends to go forward with a hearing Friday on a bill to loosen Nevada’s Clean Indoor Air Act despite a lawsuit to stop the Legislature from considering the bill.

Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will hold the hearing unless “advised otherwise.”

And it has been revealed that Kendall Stagg, who filed the suit in the Nevada Supreme Court, still owes the state several thousand dollars on a fine imposed on him for filing a late campaign finance report when he ran for Reno City Council in 2002.

Records in the Secretary of State's Office show Stagg was six months late filing his campaign report and a $5,000 fine was imposed. He failed to pay and the State Attorney General's Office filed suit. A district judge in May 2008 found Stagg owed the money but reduced the amount to $3,500, including penalties and costs.

Stagg, who lists his address as Queens, N.Y., submitted the first payment of $630 on Feb. 10 this year.

Care said this is a petition to stop the hearing and he received the suit today. He said it’s up to the Nevada Supreme Court to decide if a reply is necessary.

Stagg could not be reached for comment.

The suit is aimed at stopping the Legislature from considering Senate Bill 372, which would permit smoking in some businesses, bars and at certain conventions or trade shows.

Voters in 2006 approved the clean air act 310,524 to 265,375. Stagg was policy manager for the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition, which was one of a number of groups that supported the clean air act to prevent smoking in a number of cases.

Stagg says the Legislature now seeks to violate the Nevada Constitution by trying to amend the law. The Constitution, says the suit, prohibits an initiative petition approved by the voters “shall not be amended, annulled, repealed, set aside or suspended by the Legislature within three years from the date it takes effect.”

The bill violates that mandate, said Stagg, a former candidate for Reno City Council and the Assembly.

But the bill introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee would not become effective until December this year, or three years passed the approval by the voters.

The bill would permit smoking in places of employment if there is an enclosed area with a separate method of ventilation. It would permit smoking at conventions or trade shows that are not open to the public and are being organized by a tobacco association or a professional association of convenience stores and involves the display of tobacco products.

It would permit smoking in adult standalone bars, taverns or saloons with gambling licenses and that prohibit those under 21 years old from entering.

And it would repeal a section of the law that authorizes local governments to enact stiffer prohibitions against smoking. Local authorities would be prohibited from enforcing the clean air act.

Earlier this week, John Packham, director of health policy of research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, wrote that this Senate bill would “essentially dismantle the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act.”

In a column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Packham wrote that passages of this bill would “set back tobacco control and prevention by at least two decades.” For instance, he said it would permit smoking in places such as grocery stores and restaurants if there was a separate area.

Cy Ryan may be reached at (775) 687 5032 or [email protected].

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