Two groups representing Iowa bar and restaurant owners have joined to file a lawsuit challenging the new state law which bans smoking in most public places, including bars.
George Eichhorn of Stratford, a former state legislator, is the attorney hired to pursue the case. "We filed a petition claiming that this legilsation — both the structure of it and what it does — violates the Iowa and the federal constitution," Eichhorn says.
Eichhorn filed the legal paperwork in Polk County District Court on Tuesday, the day the smoking ban in most public places went into effect.
The law still allows smoking in some public places, like the gaming floors in the state’s casinos, and while the lawsuit challenges that exemption, Eichhorn says it goes far beyond that single issue. "Iowa has adopted a whole new regulatory structure without what we consider to be the proper legal foundation for it," Eichhorn says, "so for instance right now this legislation wants to go in and inspect all sorts of private property that’s never been subjected to this kind of inspection before."
The smoking ban applies to retail shops as well as private clubs run by fraternal organizations like the Elk’s. "It has some very unusual features in there…strange things just in and of this law that I think are different from other states," Eichhorn says.
Eichhorn’s first seeking a temporary injunction that would suspend enforcement of the smoking ban until the case is settled in court. Eichhorn, by the way, is not a smoker. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Iowa Bar Owners Coalition and a Clinton-area group calling themselves "COBRA" — Clinton Organized Bar and Restaurant Association.
Eichhorn is a Republican who ran for the U.S. Senate and lost in the early June primary. The bar owners talked with former Governor Tom Vilsack about hiring him to pursue the lawsuit, but the head of the Iowa Bar Owners Coalition says they were unhappy with Vilsack’s perspective on the case. Vilsack told Radio Iowa this week that if hired, he would present a lawsuit that did not seek to overturn the law, but would ask to do away with the exemptions which continue to allow smoking at places like the casino gaming floors.