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Citizens attend Monday night's City Council meeting, in which the smoking-ban ordinance was passed. Below right, Mayor Don Kyle makes a comment at the meeting.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Citizens attend Monday night's City Council meeting, in which the smoking-ban ordinance was passed. Below right, Mayor Don Kyle makes a comment at the meeting.

DECATUR SMOKING BAN NOW IN MAYOR'S HANDS
Kyle not keen to use veto, but compromise appears unlikely

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

The fate of Decatur's new smoking ordinance will be decided in a battle of wills between three city councilmen and Mayor Don Kyle.

Passed by the City Council on Monday in a 3-2 decision, the ordinance prohibits smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants and sporting arenas.

Decatur will become the seventh Alabama municipality to impose such smoking rules if the law takes effect Oct. 1. Other cities with similar laws include Homewood and five smaller municipalities in South Alabama.

Kyle said Tuesday he is still considering a veto. He has until Aug. 16 to make a decision. Kyle said he favors stronger smoking laws for Decatur but objects to portions of the ordinance that he said would hurt local businesses.

"I have to do what is most right for the most citizens in Decatur," he said. "And I'm still not convinced that it's not a compromise."

Instead of the new ordinance, Kyle proposes one that lets business owners decide on smoking, but forbids minors to enter facilities that are not smoke-free.

He said he will seek input this week from concerned parties, including the American Cancer Society, and hopes to make a decision on the veto by Friday. If he vetoes the measure, he must present his written objections to the council.

“I feel like I owe it to the city councilmen who worked on this to make a decision in a timely manner,” Kyle said.

Kyle said he does not want to veto the ordinance if a compromise can be reached.

No compromise

But the three councilmen who passed the ordinance —Council President Billy Jackson, David Bolding, and Ronny Russell — said they will not support a compromise.

“We put an ordinance on the table that works,” Jackson said Tuesday. “If he vetoes it, he’ll have to deal with it.”

Bolding criticized the mayor for not making his final decision sooner.

“We voted the way we felt,” said Bolding. “Why didn’t he?”

It is unlikely the three can muster the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

Councilmen Gary Hammon and Ray Metzger voted against the ordinance Monday, and said they will not change their votes. Both say the ordinance would hurt local businesses.

“All I want is the minimum that will allow nonsmokers to not be exposed to smoke,” Hammon said. “That’s the proposal that I had, that’s what Huntsville has and that’s what Madison has.”

Early on, Hammon proposed an ordinance that allowed business owners to choose whether to allow smoking. That effort died when Jackson declined to place the item on the agenda when the new ordinance passed Monday.

If the new ordinance takes effect, penalties for violators will range from $1 to $500 per offense.

No smoking in Decatur

If Decatur’s new anti-smoking ordinance takes effect, penalties for violators will range from $1 to $500 per offense. Smoking will be prohibited in:

  • Aquariums, galleries, libraries and museums.

  • Bingo facilities.

  • Bars.

  • Convention facilities.

  • Education facilities (both public and private.

  • Elevators.

  • Theaters.

  • Health-care facilities.

  • Hotel and motel lobbies.

  • Licensed child-care and adult-care facilities.

  • Common areas in multiple-unit residential facilities, including trailer parks.

  • Polling places.

  • Private clubs when being used for public functions.

  • Public transportation facilities.

  • Restaurants, including attached bars.

  • Restrooms.

  • Retail stores and shopping malls.

  • Sporting arenas.

  • All enclosed areas at any place of employment.

    - Decatur City Council

    Cities with smoking laws

    The following Alabama municipalities have enacted laws that prohibit smoking in all public places:

  • Citronelle

  • Cottonwood

  • Flomaton

  • Headland

  • Homewood

  • Luverne

    Others ban smoking in restaurants, but make exceptions for bars:

  • Auburn

  • Birmingham

  • Fairhope

  • Opelika

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