UPDATED: More on Smoking Ban Ruling, Impact on Charleston

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smokingban2b_resized.jpgHere's the meat of the decision:

South Carolina law provides that each municipality of this State may enact:

regulations, resolutions, and ordinances, not inconsistent with the Constitution and general law of this State, including the exercise of powers in relation to roads, streets, markets, law enforcement, health, and order in the municipality or respecting any subject which appears to it necessary and proper for the security, general welfare, and convenience of the municipality or for preserving health, peace, order, and good government in it.”

S.C. Code Ann. § 5-7-30 (2004). Under the State Constitution, “all laws concerning local government shall be liberally construed in their favor.” S.C. Const. art. VIII, § 17. “A municipal ordinance is a legislative enactment and is presumed to be constitutional.” Sunset Cay, LLC v. City of Folly Beach, 357 S.C. 414, 425, 593 S.E.2d 462, 467 (2004). Furthermore, “[a]s a general rule, ‘additional regulation to that of State law does not constitute a conflict therewith.’” Denene, 352 S.C. at 214, 574 S.E.2d at 199 (citation omitted).

The most important difference that stands out to me is the fact that Greenville's ordinance expressly states that a violation constitutes an infraction, with no more than a fine for a penalty — an important distinction in the court's eyes. The City of Charleston's ordinance refers back to the city's generic penalties of $500 or 30 days in jail.

UPDATE: The City of Charleston will be adjusting their penalties to conform to the Supreme Court ruling. As noted in our story (linked below), the city has made no citations for violations, so this isn't really a loss.

We wrote about the impending Supreme Court decision a few weeks ago, looking at what the next steps would be from either side.

With the decision likely to either reinforce the existing smoking bans or cast the entire lot into doubt, (Dan) Carrigan says Smoke-Free (South Carolina) is ready to take the fight in one of two directions. If the ban is upheld, they'll take the fight to new municipalities.

"There are a lot (of governing bodies) who are waiting right now on the Supreme Court before they proceed," he says.

Meanwhile, tobacco lobbyists will be putting the pressing legislators to take action.

(An) army of tobacco lobbyists have settled roots in the halls of the Statehouse. Tobacco giant RJ Reynolds nearly tripled the money it was spending on lobbyists in 2006 and 2007, according to a recent Hilton Head Island Packet report.

"You have to wonder what they're getting for that money," Carrigan says.

There are bills already under committee review that would reinforce local bans or obliterate them, but the traction seems to be with compromise legislation that would prohibit smoking in restaurants, but provide an exception for bars.

(Wild Wings Cafe's David) Clark says that legislation may benefit bar owners in the state, but others that shift their focus between the kitchen and the bar depending on the hour of the night, could still be forced to remain smoke free.

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