The Casper City Council may have passed a city-wide smoking ban on Tuesday, but city voters will likely have the final say.
Local businessman Pat Sweeney, who is leading a referendum effort, said he would start collecting signatures this week to place the issue on the November ballot. To sign, people must be registered to vote in the city of Casper, which can be confirmed at the Natrona County Clerk’s Office.
“Whether you’re for it or against it, sign the petition,” he said.
Sweeney said a smoking ban should be decided by the people, a sentiment all council members agreed with during the final vote on Tuesday. But under state law, City Attorney Bill Luben said the public can only vote on ordinances by referendum, not initiative.
“We all support a referendum,” Mayor Kenyne Schlager said Tuesday. “We have to pass this to give you your voice.”
Councilmen Paul Bertoglio and Bill Brauer were the only members to vote against the smoking ban. Both had spoken out against the ban proposal.
Ordinances typically go into effect upon publication in the weeks following approval, but the council unanimously supported postponing the ban’s start date. This prevents a potential break in enforcement that would be created by a referendum.
Opponents have 20 days to file a petition for referendum following publication of the ordinance, and if they collect enough signatures, Luben said the council must repeal or suspend the ban until people vote. Sponsors would need to collect 1,896 signatures to place the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot, according to the county clerk’s office.
The council designated Sept. 1 as the smoking ban’s start date, should the referendum effort fail.
Sweeney said he will make petitions available at the Parkway Plaza Hotel & Convention Centre, Wonder Bar, Poor Boy’s Steakhouse, Sandbar Lounge, Frosty’s Bar and Grill, Poplar Wine & Spirits, Dorn’s Fireside, Fagan Jewelry, The Wolcott Galleria, Laser Tech, Industrial Screen and Maintenance Inc., the Casper Elks Lodge and Veterans of Foreign Wars Powder River Post 991. He said anyone interested in distributing copies of the petition can contact him at 307-235-1777.
Rachel Bailey, spokeswoman for SmokeFree Natrona County, said the group asks those in favor of the ban not to sign anything in order to let the law take effect.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the end result,” she said after Tuesday’s meeting. “We feel that the council has done a really, really fabulous job looking at all the information at hand, looking at what other communities in Wyoming have done and taking all of that information in and putting together an ordinance that really protects the health of the public.”
In the fall of 2011, SmokeFree Natrona County presented a poll showing 67 percent of Natrona County voters would support a public smoking ban. The group commissioned the poll after hearing from council members who wanted to gauge public support for a smoking ordinance.
The council continued to discuss community support in January and began gathering information to draft a smoke-free ordinance in February. They heard from supporters and opponents of the ban throughout March, reviewing and making slight changes to the ordinance in April.
By mid-May, the council was ready to begin the three required votes needed to make an ordinance law. If the law survives the referendum, it will prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars and private clubs, among other public places.
A handful of Wyoming cities, including Laramie and Cheyenne, have already enacted smoking ordinances. Casper passed its own ban in 2000, but it was overturned by a voter referendum.