Oklahoma City Council gives intention to exempt Remington Park from smoking regulations

By a 7 to 2 vote, the Oklahoma City Council stated its intent to exempt Remington Park from future stricter tobacco ordinances that could be possible if a bill currently before the state legislature passes.

Oklahoma City Council members passed a resolution Tuesday stating their willingness to exempt Remington Park from future stricter tobacco ordinances.

The resolution passed 7 to 2. Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee and Ward 8 Councilman Patrick Ryan voted against the resolution introduced by Ward 4 Councilman Pete White.

White said if Oklahoma City did not announce its intentions, it could hold up state legislation that would allow for stricter city ordinances.

“I would rather permit smoking at Remington Park than see the entire thing fail statewide,” White said. “I have a very strong feeling that that’s exactly what we’re up against.”

Ryan worried about the wisdom of exempting a particular place from an ordinance to promote healthy living.

“Essentially we would allow Remington Park to continue to operate as they currently do,” Ryan said. “This is an exception to allow them to be unhealthy at this location.”

White said that because Remington Park is not on tribal land, it is subject to state and local laws. Other casinos fall under tribal law and wouldn’t be subject to state or local smoking restrictions.

“The truth is that casinos are going to be exempted all over Oklahoma if the present legislation passes,” White said. “This is an attempt to put Remington Park on the same footing as all the other facilities in the state.”

State legislative efforts
State House Bill 2135 would repeal state laws preventing cities and towns from enacting tobacco use restrictions stricter than the state’s. The House Public Health Committee passed HB 2135 by a vote of 9-5 and is awaiting further action by the Legislature.

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, the bill’s author, said Oklahoma is one of only two states with so-called pre-emption laws. Tennessee is the other. The proposal would allow cities to decide whether to ban smoking in public places, such as bars. It also would give local governments the ability to use local law enforcement to check on tobacco violations.

Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, the committee’s vice chairman, voted against the measure because he said he is concerned local governments could abuse their powers. He also objected to giving government more control over businesses.

Oklahoma City’s resolution

The resolution passed Tuesday stated the city supports the legislative effort and believes smoking is a public nuisance and dangerous to public health. It also states it is not the city’s “intent to impose tobacco regulations, which are stricter than state law, upon any facility operating pursuant to a license issued by the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission.”

White said there is reason to believe if Remington Park was not exempted then the state Legislature would have a hard time passing the bill.

“I just don’t want Oklahoma City to be an impediment against getting the entire thing passed for the state over just the issue of Remington Park,” he said.

Scott Wells, general manager of Remington Park, said if local smoking restrictions were imposed without an exemption for the racetrack and casino, his business could not keep up with the 103 other casinos that fall under tribal jurisdictions.

“It’s a known fact that many casino players partake of tobacco,” Wells said.

“The 600 jobs that I directly employ at Remington Park and thousands of jobs in the Oklahoma horse industry would be very, very negatively impacted by this,” he said. “I predict that it would cause the failure of our business.”

Although he voted for the resolution, Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs warned that if it comes to enacting tougher smoking regulations and Remington Park is exempted, then other establishments will claim that the racetrack is getting an unfair advantage.

“We’re going to have all the sports bar owners in town coming here saying we put them at a disadvantage because we’re allowing Remington to do it,” Marrs said.

Light ‘em up

During the debate, a man seated in the council chambers lit a water-vapor cigarette in protest of the proceedings. John Taylor was peacefully escorted out of City Hall.

Speaking with reporters, Taylor said it was crazy to exempt one place from restrictions.

If smoking is going to be allowed, the law should make people smoke water-vapor cigarettes, Taylor said holding and puffing on a smokeless electric device shaped like a cigarette that is supposed to simulate smoking while replacing tobacco smoke with water vapor.

source: newsok.com

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