Sunday, February 04, 2007

Are Minnesota lawmakers exempting tribal casinos from a proposed statewide smoking ban to fulfill campaign funding promises?

Democratic party leaders stutter and stammer when confronted with this lack of consistency regarding protecting the health of all hospitality workers.

Exempting tribal casinos from a statewide smoking ban, seems to be an admission by lawmakers that they realize secondhand smoke is not the health hazard that the non-profit activists claim. When confronted on the obvious fact that the tribal casinos are exempt from the proposed statewide smoking ban, DFL smoking ban proponents claim that as sovereign nations, the tribal casinos are exempt from state law. Yet that explanation seems to contradict state law found here:

To the extent that state law is "prohibitory" as opposed to "regulatory," it applies to American Indian reservations under the operation of Public Law No. 280, which provides Minnesota with the authority to enforce criminal and prohibitory law on American Indian reservations

The Minnesota Environmental Law goes on to say:

[I]f the intent of a state law is generally to prohibit certain conduct, it falls within Pub.L. 280's grant of criminal jurisdiction

Now feel free to correct me if I'm wrong but isn't a statewide smoking ban a law that prohibits a certain conduct; ie. smoking in an establishment where workers are exposed to secondhand smoke?

But former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Steve Sviggum points to another possible reason for the DFL endorsed smoking ban to exempt Indian casinos. From the Bemidji Pioneer Sviggum writes:

Under this proposal — which is being pushed by Democrats — tribal casinos would be exempt from following this statewide mandate. Oddly enough, Minnesota tribes are among the largest campaign contributors to Democratic lawmakers. According to a recent campaign finance report, Minnesota tribes put more than $1.2 million in the DFL’s campaign coffers through contributions and disbursements during the last election cycle. Not surprisingly, they are allowed to maintain their smoking privileges under this plan.

So if Minnesota lawmakers are going to be consistent in their concern for the health and welfare of all hospitality workers, while also proving to residents of Minnesota that they are not pawns to the tribal Indian casinos, then the casinos should not be exempt from a statewide smoking ban.

Public Law No. 280 clearly shows that the Indian casinos are subject to the same prohibitory laws that the rest of Minnesota residents are.

The alternative is to make the smoking ban regulatory which would not apply to the tribal casinos. A regulatory law would subject bars and restaurants to regular OSHA air quality monitoring of secondhand smoke; just like we do in our manufacturing facilities where employees are protected from welding smoke using OSHA standards.

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