By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen City Council collectively hit the brakes on the proposed smoking ordinance Tuesday night when it pulled the item from the agenda.
City Attorney Kathy Davis said the vast amount of public input from a variety of sources led to the decision to pull the item.
The council did not reschedule the item, but Davis said she will be making some changes in the coming weeks. She said the ordinance will be discussed during a workshop.
Davis said she doesn't believe the ordinance will be ready by the next meeting, Dec. 9.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham said the council clearly saw the best move was to hold off and take another look at the proposed ordinance.
Councilman Larry Cole said he's glad the council chose to postpone a vote.
"I thought we were going a little too fast – even the nonsmokers thought it was too rigid," Cole said after the workshop Tuesday. "They just wanted more time to study and more time to discuss. And that got across to the council and to the mayor. ? I thought we should have had the restaurant owners in."
One week after getting its first peek at an ordinance that would ban smoking from all indoor facilities in the city, including bars, restaurants and pool halls, the council moved forward Nov. 18 and appeared ready to vote on the item.
To many business owners in the community, the move seemed a bit sudden, especially since the council had been discussing a ban for years without result.
During the past week, council members and staffers received several phone calls, e-mails and inquiries suggesting a slowdown, changes and containing a wide assortment of unsolicited advice.
In the end, the council and staffers listened.
"The council has been getting a lot of feedback in the past week," said Davis, who drafted the ordinance. "I've also gotten some good information from the American Cancer Society, and other people across the state and the country who have been through some litigation. ? There are some provisions we could include that would make the ordinance more enforceable."
In its current form, the ordinance exempted bingo halls, something that disturbed many bar owners in the area.
Davis said that distinction was not a contributing factor to the decision to delay the vote. She said that including exemptions in the ordinance make it more difficult to enforce than if the ordinance was 100 percent smoke free.
Compared with other cities of similar size, Killeen's proposed ordinance is one of the stiffest.
A total of 21 cities in Texas, with a population of between 75,000 and 150,000, have an ordinance in their city codes addressing smoking, including Killeen.
Nine of those 21 cities, Tyler, Longview, Beaumont, Pasadena, Sugar Land, Round Rock, McAllen, Abilene and McKinney, are 100 percent smoke free, outlawing smoking in every location within its city limits, except private residences and a few scattered exceptions.
Killeen's proposed ordinance nearly matches the laws set in these cities.
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7568.