OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - An Oklahoma House committee approved a bill earlier this week that allows local governments the authority to ban smoking in public places, The Oklahoman reports.
It is the second consecutive year the committee passed such a bill, though it was never brought up on the House floor last year. That bill, however, included a provision to allow local law enforcement officials to check on tobacco violations, an item excluded from this year€™s version.
House Bill 2267 presents conflict of laws implications and would repeal state laws that prevent cities and towns from enacting tobacco restrictions that are more restrictive than the state€™s.
Representative Doug Cox, author of the bill, said Oklahoma is one of only two states with so-called pre-emption laws (Tennessee is the other).
"Some cities may elect not to do anything," he said. "It will be an entirely local issue."
Jim Hopper, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, said his group opposes the measure because different regulations by different cities present burdens to his association€™s members.
"We like the fact that whatever the rules are, whatever the law is, that it's applied statewide rather than allowing individual communities to set their own regulations," he said. "We have multi-unit operators that have to train those people. That's a business issue. They have to train their employees and they want to be able to move them around. If the rules are different in all the different locations, then it's just hard."
Hopper added that passage of the bill could lead to other proposals that would give cities and towns additional powers.
"This opens the door for some really restrictive things that any small business ought to be concerned about, not just restaurants," he said.
Carolyn Stager, executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League, supports the proposal, arguing conferring rights to cities and towns will help with job creation, economic development and quality of life.
"Businesses consider the health of their workforce and health care costs when deciding where to locate or expand," she said. "At this time, Oklahoma communities are at a disadvantage when competing against cities in Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas, where cities and towns have the ability to become smoke-free."