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N.D. bar smoking ban receives thumbs-down

BISMARCK - A Senate committee is recommending defeat of a proposed smoking ban in bars and truck stops. Senate Judiciary members voted 4-2 for a do-not-pass recommendation on Senate Bill 2164. Bismarck bar owner Al Leier, who testified against th...

BISMARCK - A Senate committee is recommending defeat of a proposed smoking ban in bars and truck stops.

Senate Judiciary members voted 4-2 for a do-not-pass recommendation on Senate Bill 2164.

Bismarck bar owner Al Leier, who testified against the bill at Tuesday's two-hour hearing, said the action is encouraging but he's not going to assume it means the bill is done.

"I'm a little more relaxed, but optimistic, no," he said.

Sen. Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt, was one committee member supporting the do-not-pass motion. He said it would be hard to enforce the law in rural areas and would hinder business in small communities. He also agrees with bill opponents that customers have a choice whether to go into a bar that has smoking.

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Marcellais said there are increasing numbers of non-smoking bars. He noted during Tuesday's testimony as many as 50 percent of the bars in Bismarck are smoke-free.

Other members on the committee who supported the do-not-pass motion were Sen. David Nething, R-Jamestown, and Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg.

Sen. Carolyn Nelson and Sen. Tom Fiebiger, both D-Fargo, supported the bill and voted against the do-not-pass motion.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ralph Kilzer, R-Bismarck, said he introduced it to restore parts of his 2005 smoke-free public places bill that were removed by the House. Kilzer's original 2005 bill had no exceptions for bars and truck stops.

The 2005 law as passed also allows smoking in rooms rented for private parties for adult-only functions such as wedding dances. Kilzer aimed to close that loophole, too.

The bill may be voted on in the Senate as early as today.

Cole writes for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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