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Is Unanimous Vote Necessary for Smoke-Free Repeal? Two Legal Opinions Differ

Springfield city council is holding a public hearing tonight to discuss the merits of one group’s petition to amend the current smoking ordinance. The group “Live Free Springfield” thinks the ordinance is too strict, and that it’s hurting local businesses. But legal opinions vary as to whether or not a unanimous city council vote is required to amend or repeal the ordinance. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe has this report.

Live Free Springfield has submitted a petition that’s been certified for consideration by council.

But the group One Air Alliance, which pushed for the smoking ban that’s now in place, thinks that repeal should be harder to pass than others.

The city’s position is that the ordinance could be changed with a simple majority vote of city council. But One Air Alliance has issued its own legal opinion that contradicts that. Stephen Hall, spokesman for One Air Alliance, says the language in the city charter is very clear.

“This is an ordinance that was passed by voters last April. So because it was passed by voters, there is a special criteria that the city charter outlines, and it says that ‘If that law is amended or repealed, it must be done with the unanimous vote of city council, or it must be done at the ballot.’ Those are the only two choices,” Hall said.

Dan Wichmer is Springfield’s city attorney. He disagrees with One Air Alliance, saying that since Live Free Springfield initiated the repeal process and not city council, a simple majority vote would be required to amend or repeal the ordinance.

“The way our Charter’s laid out, city council is a simple majority on all matters unless there has been an ordinance that was adopted through a vote of the people, and city council initiates the action. That’s the only time the unanimous requirement kicks in,” Wichmer.

In his legal opinion, Wichmer says city council has only two options: to accept Live Free Springfield’s petition as is, or to leave it to a public vote. Council votes on the petition on March 26, and by then, the city will decide whether the final decision must be made unanimously.

For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.