Proposed Missouri Bill Punishes Cities, Counties with Anti-Smoking Laws

Extra Revenue Diverted to Schools Instead of City Coffers

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If Missouri state Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, has her way, localities that pass limitations on smoking in public venues such as restaurants would be required to give sales and property tax revenue from those establishments to local school districts. Missouri House Bill 1021's author told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the measure has has a 50 percent chance of passing with less than a month left in the 2013 legislative session. The impetus for the bill revolves around protecting the rights of owners of bars and restaurants to decide for themselves whether or not to allow smoking inside.

* Conway said to the media outlet, "If these municipalities and counties are going to hurt the income of small businesses, maybe their bottom line should be affected as well."

* House Bill 1021 states, "If any political subdivision prohibits the use of tobacco in a private business... all tax revenue generated by the business through property taxes and county sales taxes shall be remitted to the local school district in lieu of the political subdivision."

* The Maneater student newspaper has a map of nearly two dozen municipalities in Missouri that have some sort of smoking limits. Columbia, Kansas City, Maryville, Kirksville, Warrensburg, St. Louis and Springfield all prohibit or limit smoking in restaurants. Many of those cities prohibit smoking at workplaces. St. Louis County limits smoking in certain public places as well.

* House Bill 1021 was given a hearing Thursday in Jefferson City, Mo. The legislation was introduced April 2 and is opposed by the Missouri Municipal League. The lobbying group "supports all municipal efforts to improve indoor air quality... including the adoption of smoking restrictions."

* Stan Cowan of Tobacco-Free Missouri told the Post Dispatch, "[The bill] is essentially trying to intimidate city and county governments to slow down or not pass smoke-free ordinances."

* Seven other GOP members in the Missouri House from St. Charles County back House Bill 1021. Only one member from outside the county has signed on to co-sponsor the legislation.

* Conway will re-introduce the bill next year if the measure fails this session out of her "concern for the businesses."

* The St. Charles County Council tried to put a question of smoking bans to a vote of the people on November's ballot. However, the county elections director and the state's circuit court blocked the ballot initiative.

* Conway also sponsored a companion bill to a Senate proposal that limits the amount of revenue localities can generate through citations for moving violations. Any money in excess of 20 percent of a locality's operating budget from moving violations would be turned over to the Missouri Department of Revenue to disburse such funds to school districts within the boundaries of the offending local government.

* Conway was first elected in 2010 and is currently serving her second two-year term. She has a degree in law enforcement administration.

William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics.

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