Hookah legislation goes up in smokeLawmakers want courts to settle ban exemption for lounges in South Dakota.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Members of the state House of Representatives failed Tuesday to approve a definition of smoking that is missing from South Dakota’s laws banning smoking in bars, casinos and restaurants with alcohol licenses.
The heart of the issue was whether hookah lounges that use Turkish-style water pipes can serve alcohol despite the ban.
A hookah is an Eastern smoking pipe designed with a long tube passing through an urn of water that cools the smoke as it is drawn through.
Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City, said the fight this year is similar to the battle last year over billboards. She asked that the issue involving hookah establishments be allowed to be settled in court instead.
House members voted 36-33 against the smoking-definition legislation. It had previously passed in the Senate.
The issue became convoluted last week, after a House committee carved out an exception for hookah establishments that were in business before Jan. 1, 2013.
“This is a bad amendment. It opens up a large exemption in the law,” Rep. Scott Craig, R-Rapid City, said Tuesday.
State law already provides a similar exception for cigar bars, said Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton.
Nelson said the committee carefully considered the facts, and the private-property rights of the Ifrits’ owners should be respected. Ifrits is a Rapid City hookah bar.
The owners filed their business papers for the establishment in September 2009, months after the ban had been passed by the Legislature, said Rep. Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau.
Craig succeeded in having the committee amendment removed. He acknowledged the issue is being litigated. That prompted Rep. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, to call for the bill to be killed altogether.
“Let the process work,” Greenfield said. If there is a feeling next year that changes are needed, legislators can take up the matter then, Greenfield said.
State law doesn’t define smoking. The original intent of the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, was to add the definition at the request of Rapid City police and municipal officials.