The Insurance/Ordinance committee meeting had two big ticket items at the last meeting. The repeal of a smoking ban and a special residential housing ordinance were highly anticipated and heavily discussed.
A Pryor city ordinance, as it stands, prohibits smoking on all public property, which would include parks or other outdoor property owned by the city. The Oklahoma attorney general ruled that cities cannot ban smoking in outdoor areas they own or operate. This ruling stemmed from the fact that Oklahoma law bans cities from enacting laws that are more strict than the state law.
“It was made very clear that we need to repeal this,” said Mayor Jimmy Tramel. “I tried to use Senate Bill 96 which gives cities the right to control it, but he said we need to repeal it.”
The attorney general’s report stated that all regulations, including municipal ordinances enacted to control public smoking, must be the same as the provisions of the Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act.
This act “intends to preempt any other regulation promulgated to control smoking in public places and to standardize laws that governmental subdivisions may adopt to control smoking.”
Questions came from the audience in regard to the park located at Roosevelt Elementary School. Though the park is being built in conjunction with the school, it will be on public property, said Tramel, so smoking would be allowed.
Several conversations have begun in state legislation regarding smoking bans.
House Bill 2267 would give cities power over how tobacco is marketed, sold or taxed. It also repeals state laws preventing cities and towns from enacting tobacco use restrictions stricter than the state.
On Feb. 6, Gov. Mary Fallin filed an executive order that “prohibits smoking in all public places, in any indoor workplace, and in all vehicles owned by the State of Oklahoma and all of its agencies and instrumentalities.”
The order continued to outline the health risks associated with second-hand smoking.
“The use of any tobacco product shall be prohibited on any and all properties owned, leased or contracted for use by the State of Oklahoma, including but not limited to all buildings, land and vehicles,” it said.
Fallin gave state agencies six months to make sure tobacco is not being used in or on any state properties. She converted the capitol’s smoking room to a fitness center.
Discussion is anticipated to continue until 2014. For now, Pryor will take down the smoking ban signs, and repeal the ordinance.
City attorney Kim Ritchie’s report began with a housing ordinance, which has reached city council and now returns to committee.
“What we’ve got is a couple different situations that really need to be separated,” said Ritchie. “The rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol abuse is one, and a halfway house is the other. These are two different animals.”
He said anyone in a rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol recovery are protected classes that cannot be discriminated against. For the city, this means it cannot enact an ordinance that would treat these individuals differently.
“The second group is different. There are Oklahoma statutes that allow different treatment of criminals. The considerations for a group home would be the same as a boarding house ordinance which we already have in place,” said Ritchie.
He said the criteria to consider is increased noise and traffic and number of people in each residence.
Committee member Greg Rosamond asked Ritchie to elaborate on licensing and regulation options.
“My research is preliminary in that area, but I think we can get into legitimate concerns about oversight,” said Ritchie.
“In my mind there’s a difference in having these types of facilities in our community when they are helping the people in our community,” said committee member Travis Noland. “If they are run properly, I think they’re great but we don’t want to bus people in.”
Ritchie said there is not a legal or legitimate way to limit access to to Mayes County residents.
“I think it’s still a huge safety factor,” said committee member Carolyn Wise. “Is there a limit to the number of residents per dwelling?”
Ritchie said there is a limit and asked if the committee anticipated any other issues for him to research.
“I would like to see a board assembled, a community advisory board. Maybe they could have a police officer in an advisory position to help mediate some of these sorts of issues,” said Noland. “I would like to see them meeting on a regular basis. I think a lot can be done by simply not turning a blind eye. If we are active members of the community, we will be aware of what’s going on and have input as it happens.”
The committee agreed with the suggestion of forming an advisory board.
“There’s probably no need to reinvent the wheel here. Surely there’s other cities we can look to for direction,” said Rosamond.
The mayor and attorney agreed there are cities with similar facilities to use as a pattern for the ordinance.
The committee discussed an ordinance put forth by Tramel to amend a previous ordinance regarding building permit requirements and fees.
Tramel warned the committee, “this is a long one” as he presented the committee with a five-page ordinance draft. The ordinance, essentially required the city to adhere to state standards in regard to building permits and the accompanying fees.
“If we are seeking simplicity, why are we creating an ordinance that says to follow state law? Why don’t we just follow state law?” said Rosamond.
“We could do that,” said Tramel.
Noland made a request that future items of this size be presented to the committee for review prior to the meeting.
Noland questioned the validity of fees and ordinances if the city does not enforce ordinances of its own creation.