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THE MIDWEST»

Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Smoking Ban

The Ohio Supreme Court in May unanimously upheld the state’s workplace indoor smoking ban, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. Zeno’s, a Columbus bar, unsuccessfully argued the ban was unconstitutional.
Zeno’s had been cited and fined by the Ohio Department of Health 10 times between July 2007 and September 2009 for violating the indoor smoking ban. The bar never paid any of the fines and was subsequently sued by the state health department for nonpayment.
The health department initially lost its case in Franklin County trial court. The court indicated Zeno’s should not be punished for something its customers were doing. The 10th District Court of Appeals later overruled the lower court’s decision.
The appeals court ruled the bar intentionally violated the law by allowing patrons to smoke. Zeno’s appealed the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.
In its ruling against Zeno’s, the Supreme Court said the bar didn’t have a “proper constitutional argument” based on the fact it never appealed the 10 citations and fines through lower court. In the ruling, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger said, “Our review of the act leads us to conclude that it is neither unduly oppressive nor arbitrary in its restrictions.”
The workplace smoking ban was a ballot initiative approved by voters in November 2006. The law bans smoking in any enclosure where employees are working. The law exempts private residences, outdoor patios, private clubs, tobacco shops, and designated smoking rooms in hotels and nursing homes, according the Plain Dealer.
 
EXPANDED GAMBLING
The Illinois House passed a bill in May that would allow slot machines at horse racing tracks across the state. Five new casinos would also be permitted under the legislation. The bill represents the single largest expansion of gambling in Illinois in a generation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. It is uncertain what would occur if the bill is sent to Gov. Pat Quinn. He has previously indicated his opposition to any measure to put slots at racetracks.
 
STAGE SAFETY
In response to the deadly state collapse at the 2011 Indiana State Fair, the state’s legislative council recently commissioned the Outdoor Stage Safety Committee, according to The Courier-Journalin Louisville, Ky. The committee will search for ways to prevent another stage collapse like the one that killed seven people last year. The committee was created by Senate Enrolled Act 273, passed during the 2012 legislative session.
 
INSURANCE PREMIUM HIKES
The Michigan House Government Operations Committee passed legislation in May that would double health insurance premiums for retired legislators, The Detroit News reported. Under House Bill 5548, retired legislators and some active legislators grandfathered into the retirement plan would be required to pay for 20 percent of health care costs. The current law, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011, set the cap at 10 percent for legislators.
 
TOURISM IMPACT
Heritage tourism—tourism tied to historic sites—brought in $196 million in 2011 to Nebraska’s economy , according to a May report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The study looked at the economic impact of visitors who came to view historic sites, the operation of the sites and the contribution of Nebraskans who might have gone out of state if not for local historic sites, according to The Lincoln Journal Star. The report attributed 70 percent of the $196 million to out-of-state visitors.
 
ELECTRONIC POLL BOOKS
Three rural South Dakota counties planned to use electronic poll books and vote centers during the state’s June 5 primary, according to the Rapid City Journal. Workers in Hyde, Potter and Sully counties were trained to use the electronic poll books to check in voters on laptops. With the vote centers, residents are able to vote anywhere in their jurisdiction rather than only in their precinct. The electronic poll books already have  been used in Sioux Falls elections.
 
 
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