Monday, April 13, 2009 | 6:46 p.m.
CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court has refused to stop the Nevada Legislature from weakening an anti-smoking law that was approved by voters.
The court, in a unanimous decision, said this writ petition “is not ripe” for its review. It said the measure may not even pass in the Legislature and any harm is highly speculative.
But Kendall Stagg, who filed the petition to stop the Legislature from considering the bill, said “this issue is not over, regardless of the outcome. People have a right to breathe clean air. We will continue to push forward.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved on a 6-1 vote to permit smoking in adult stand-alone bars that sell food and have a gambling license. Senate Bill 372 is being sought by small bar owners and slot route operators, saying they have lost up to 25 percent of their business since the anti-smoking initiative was enacted by voters in November 2006.
In denying the petition the court said, “Until the Legislature enacts any legislation that amends the law, this court’s intervention is premature, as there is no justiciable controversy for this court to resolve.”
The petition filed in the Supreme Court said the Legislature is prohibited by the Constitution from acting within three years of the passage by the voters. That doesn’t come up until December this year. But the bill, if passed, doesn’t take effect until December.
Informed of the court’s decision, Stagg said there is a “justiciable controversy” because he said the Legislature can't spend taxpayer money on a “blatantly unconstitutional process.”
Stagg, a law student, said he would respect the decision of the court.
The Supreme Court also has under submission a case in which the 2006 initiative petition is being challenged. A district judge has upheld the anti-smoking petition but has ruled that criminal penalties could not be imposed.
Stagg said the tavern and casino owners should pause before moving forward with their plan to ease the smoking initiative. He said people may push back with a constitutional amendment to make the smoking prohibitions even tougher.
The bill in the Senate would also permit smoking at convention or trade shows involving tobacco products.
There still would be no smoking in child care facilities, movie theaters, video arcades, government buildings and all indoor areas of restaurants.
The bill should reach the Senate floor this week for adoption of amendments and then be ready for final passage.
The only no vote in the Judiciary Committee was cast by Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas.