Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Smoking ban public hearing held in Madison


The state Senate Health Committee that I serve on conducted a hastily called public hearing today on a proposed statewide smoking ban. The public notice about the hearing was barely 24 hours.

Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson has stated he would support an exemption for cigar bars. A successful cigar bar that has invested heavily in their operation is in Waukesha

At the opening of today's hearing, I asked the legislative sponsors of the ban about a possible cigar bar exemption. State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) said even though the ban was modeled after the city of Madison’s smoking ban that exempts cigar bars, Senate Bill 181, the proposed statewide ban does not. Risser said, “Some people have talked to me about possibly putting in an amendment to grandfather in the current cigar bars which would handle your mayor’s concern. This bill like any other is subject to amendments and I understand your argument.”

Joette and Jeff Barta, owners of the Nice Ash cigar bar in Waukesha who were mentioned in the above Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, testified in favor of a cigar bar exemption. Joette Barta said the lack of an exemption is “dooming us to failure.” Jeff Barta said it is impossible to successfully run a cigar bar business if smoking is banned. “We are here fighting for our economic lives,” said Jeff Barta. Joette Barta testified that if their customers are not allowed to smoke, the Barta’s will be unable to run their business they way they have the past three years.

The Barta’s correctly submit their bar is different than other bars. Smoking on the premises is essential. Otherwise, customers will simply turn to the Internet or catalogues to buy their products. The Barta’s are planning to spend $300,000 in improvements at the Nice Ash that will stimulate the economy and enhance downtown economic development in Waukesha.

“We have a ban, it’s called choice,” said Jeff Barta, emphasizing no one is forced to patronize the Nice Ash.

Barta informed the committee that the city of Madison smoking ban exemption for cigar bars stipulates that 10 percent of cigar bar sales be from tobacco. Jeff Barta said at his business, 30 percent of sales are attributed to tobacco.

I commend the Barta’s for their compelling testimony.

When I also asked supporters of the ban if casinos would be included, they said that would be unconstitutional. I am mindful that casinos must obtain government –issued liquor licenses to allow distributors to deliver liquor. Casinos must also comply with health provisions found in Chapter 101 of the state statutes. To simply dismiss the inclusion of casinos in a statewide smoking ban I find short-sighted.

Smoking remains a legal activity. I am concerned about the far-reaching negative impact the ban would have on many Wisconsin businesses at an economic time that we can least afford the loss of more businesses and jobs.

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