Senate tentatively approves statewide smoking ban covering all restaurants |

Senate tentatively approves statewide smoking ban covering all restaurants

DENVER – The Colorado Senate tentatively approved a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants Wednesday, despite arguments from opponents who said businesses already have the right to impose a ban on their own.Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, said he wants all restaurants in the state to compete under the same rules, pointing out that smoking is already banned in public places by at least 13 local governments.”What we have today in Colorado is a patchwork of regulation. Businesses that are affected by this, whether it be a county ordinance or a municipal ordinance, are crying foul. They say they were put at a competitive disadvantage be-cause the county next door or the city next door does not have the same regulation,” Grossman said.Sen. Jim Dyer, R-Littleton, said smoking is repulsive but not a matter of statewide interest.”Why are they coming, hat in hand, weeping to the Legislature, asking us to do their dirty work for them because they don’t have the moral fortitude to ban smoking in their own place of business?” he asked his colleagues.The Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, that would exclude casinos and bars from the ban. Johnson said that would give it a better chance of passing.The measure still faces stiff opposition and another Senate vote before it goes to the House, where supporters said they will try to restore the ban to include bars and casinos.Grossman said government needs to be “heavy-handed” in some areas, including public health.”This bill represents active government,” he said.Colorado’s top water-quality official resignsDENVER – The state’s top water-quality official has resigned amid struggles over funding and debates over pollution standards at the Water Quality Control Division.Mark Pifher, head of the division for two years, said Tuesday he will step down in mid-May. He will become deputy director for Aurora Utilities, the state’s third-largest municipal water supplier.His resignation comes as the state begins public hearings to set new standards for Colorado’s water and to revise pollution regulations.Pifher denied that the struggle over funding for the state agency prompted his resignation.The Legislature stripped the division of all tax revenue in 2003, forcing Pifher to raise permit fees by 66 percent.Aspen-based 9th Judicial District loses top prosecutorsASPEN – District Attorney Colleen Truden said Tuesday the departure of five experienced prosecutors since she took office in January is part of a normal transition.Speaking to Pitkin County Commissioners, Truden denied reports that at least two prosecutors who tendered their resignations were terminated and ordered out of the building.”Not one,” she told commissioners.Deputy District Attorney Chris Gaddis resigned Monday, leaving just one prosecutor experienced in prosecuting felonies. Truden, a former municipal court judge, has never tried a case at that level.Gaddis said he has received another job offer, but will stay on for two more weeks.The four other deputies who quit said they were frustrated with what they call Truden’s suffocating management style, office procedures and definition of justice.Truden’s office covers the 9th Judicial District that includes Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties and encompasses more than 7,000 square miles and 70,000 people.Verbal war escalates between Salazar, Focus on the FamilyDENVER – Sen. Ken Salazar referred to a conservative Christian group as “the Antichrist” in a bitter dispute over President Bush’s judicial nominees, but he backed off on Wednesday, saying he regretted using the term.Salazar had attacked Focus on the Family during an interview with KKTV in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, saying, “From my point of view, they are the Antichrist of the world.”In a statement Wednesday, Salazar said he has been relentlessly and unfairly attacked by the Colorado Springs group and that “I meant to say this approach was un-Christian, meaning self-serving and selfish.”Focus on the Family’s political arm has targeted Salazar and other Democratic senators in newspaper and radio ads for opposing a Republican plan to prevent Democrats from filibustering to block votes on Bush’s court nominees.Focus said Salazar’s “Antichrist” comment was intended to divert attention from allegations that he reneged on a campaign promise to support up-or-down votes on the nominations.Salazar has accused Focus on the Family supporters of picketing his wife’s suburban Denver business. He said Focus “has hijacked Christianity and made Focus on the Family and their supporters an appendage of the Republican Party.”He has acknowledged changing his position on the filibuster, saying he is fighting to uphold longstanding laws and rules and that they should not be changed simply for political gain.”I will not back away from the fundamental proposition that as a nation of laws, the institutions of this nation should also live by their own rules,” Salazar said.Since Bush took office, Democrats have allowed the confirmation of dozens of his judicial nominees but blocked 10 appeals-court appointments in Bush’s first term. The president has re-nominated seven of the 10 since he won re-election, and Democrats have threatened to filibuster again.In response, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has proposed making it easier to stop filibusters. Frist has rejected a compromise offered by Democratic leaders, who said they would allow confirmation of some of Bush’s nominees in exchange for leaving filibuster rules alone.Salazar has endorsed the compromise offer.Salazar said he has not decided how he would vote on Bush’s nominees, but said Frist’s proposal threatens to broaden the partisan divide in Congress.”I fear that what will happen is that the poisonous atmosphere that we see in Washington, D.C., will become even further poisoned,” he said.Instead of Congress and the president working to solve problems, “we’re going to have the kind of partisan skirmishes that aren’t good for anybody,” Salazar said.

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