Steuben legislators kill off 'excessive, broad' smoking ban on county property
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012 | Mary Perham | Categories:
Bath, N.Y. — Steuben County legislators defeated a second effort by a standing legislative committee 11-4 this week to ban smoking on county-owned or leased property. The ban, proposed by the county Legislature’s Human Service, Health and Education Committee, was being considered at the urging of various local health officials. It was tabled earlier this year to allow officials more time to develop the restriction. The new proposal was strongly criticized by a number of legislators for being too broad, and the $1,000 fine was called excessive. County lawmakers also thought the restriction would be unenforceable. HSH&E Committee Chairwoman Legislator Carol Ferratella, R-Riverside, said the restriction would be “self-policed” and was meant to encourage people to stop using tobacco products. Ferratella said she doubted the fine would ever be imposed. But the ban would be meaningful to anyone who has had a loved one die of cancer or struggle with emphysema, Ferratella said. “Well, where does (the ban) stop?” county Legislator Scott Van Etten, R-Caton, asked. “The government needs to stay out of people’s lives.” Voting against the measure were VanEtten and county legislators Lawrence Crossett, R-Bath, Dan Farrand, R-Rathbone, Mike Hanna, R-Hammondsport, Joe Hauryski, R-Campbell, Patrick McAllister, R-Wayland, Aaron Mullen, R-Avoca, Bill Peoples, R-Addison, Tom Ryan, R-Canisteo, Brian Schu, R-Hornellsville, and George Welch, D-Corning City. Ferratella, and county legislators Hilda Lando, D-Corning City, Robin Lattimer, R-Bath, Gary Swackhamer, R-Hornell and Randy Weaver D-Hornell voted in favor of the bill. County Legislator Gary Roush, R-Erwin, was absent. Legislators also were implored by clients and county mental health staff not to close continuing day treatment services now offered by Steuben County. The clients and staff participated in a CSEA-sponsored protest before the meeting before filling the legislative chambers and speaking during the public comment period. The county has been considering ways to cut the cost of mental health services, but recently dropped the idea of outsourcing the programs. Legislators were recently warned state cutbacks next year could force the closure of continuing day treatment services, now offered by the county. The public comment period was opened, despite a recent decision by Legislature Chairman Joe Hauryski, R-Campbell, not to allow a time at the meeting for the public to speak. Hauryski said anyone with an issue could bring it to the appropriate committee chair and be put on the agenda. Bringing it before a committee also allows discussion of the topic, since lawmakers do not respond to public comments. But environmentalist Rachel Treichler, of Hammondsport, asked the board to reconsider allowing comments before the meeting. Treichler said the public comment period allows the Legislature to be notified of new information on a topic closer to the time they occur.The Evening Tribune