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CW Guest Commentary CRA on South Dakota

I remember growing up, my parents took me on one of those cross country trips to see all of the sites that make this country so unique. I remember two things distinctively. One was the awe inspiring site of Mount Rushmore, and the other was the outright strange piece of real estate known as Badlands National Park, looking at dinosaur fossils and terrain like that of the moon.
 
A little over two decades later, South Dakota enters the mind (and soul) once again. What's happening in South Dakota deserves the attention of cigar enthusiasts everywhere, and is a case study of democracy in action.
It's a debate that began in the fall of 2008, and picked up in January of this year as State Senate Majority Leader Dave Knudson – Republican of Sioux Falls introduced Senate Bill 83, and used a poll by the completely objective South Dakota Tobacco Free Network to justify smoking ban legislation. By February the legislation had sailed through a Senate committee on a 7-0 vote, but failed in its first full Senate debate on an 18-17 vote.
 
Following the Senate action, Jane Waiter, the manager of Phinny's Pub and Casino in Yankton, South Dakota stated, “The government shouldn't be able to control what everyone else does.”
 
Then, through a parliamentary action (or some called an “impromptu meeting”) of the House State Affairs Committee, a vote of 11-2 gave life to House Bill 1240, which subsequently passed that chamber on a 43-27 vote, which was a smoking ban bill that granted exemptions to cigar shops and certain gaming establishments. There were exemptions for cigar bars, if they already exist and forbidding others to be created. There are only two for the whole state.
The House action prompted Peter Hassenstein of Sioux Falls to write a letter to the editor which noted, “Government tyranny is lying at our doorstep.”
 
The House action gave the Senate another shot at a ban bill, allowing them to obtain some switched votes, and passage of the legislation by a margin of 21-14. It was off to the Governor's Office. Republican Governor Mike Rounds signed the legislation on March 19.
 
 

Taking a Stand
Some places may accept such government action as a ‘done deal.' Not in South Dakota . A coalition was formed under the banner Citizens for Individual Freedom.
 
Cornerstone members of the group included the Video Lottery Establishments of South Dakota, Deadwood Gaming Association, Licensed Beverage Dealers of South Dakota, DeVitt Gaming Association, and the Music and Vending Association of South Dakota.
 
To address the action of the Governor and South Dakota legislature, the coalition needed 16,776 signatures to take the matter to a public vote, with bars, taverns, gaming establishments, concerned citizens about property rights and business interests joined in to gather signatures. Volunteers were assembled, and a mission was launched. They stand against 54 allied groups that supported the smoking ban legislation.
 
The effort is a great example to others. On June 22 they presented over 25,000 signatures to Secretary of State Chris Nelson for verification and placement on the November 2010 statewide ballot. More importantly, however, is that it delays the implementation of the policy passed by the legislature and signed by a Governor. Now that's democracy in action.
 
Something tells me that Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln are peering down from Mount Rushmore with smiles on their faces. After all, Jefferson said, “The government is best which governs the least.”

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J. Glynn Loope is the Executive Director of  the Cigar Rights of America. An avid cigar enthusiast, Glynn brings over twenty years of government relations and public arena involvement to CRA.  Although Glynn had carved out a niche in raising government funds for worthwhile public and private sector projects, it was working for the Cigar Association of Virginia that brought him to the world of “the politics of cigars.” Since 2006, Glynn has represented the Cigar Association of Virginia, working with the state’s professional tobacconists in amassing a pro-business coalition to fight intrusive smoking ban legislation.

Glynn also worked as a Legislative Assistant to former members of the Virginia House and Senate, for the University of Virginia’s Center for Public Service, as well as, local and regional government organizations.