Casper voters will have the opportunity to decide whether they want uphold a relaxed smoking ban or go back to a total smoking ban in buildings in Casper.

The city must conduct the election in not less than 20 days and not more than 60 days, Mayor Charlie Powell said after a special Casper City Council meeting on Tuesday.

The decisions council made grant the desire for a referendum by Keep Casper Smoke Free that conducted a petition drive after the 2013 Smoking Ban Light went into effect.

The decisions involved four ordinances:

  • The 2012 strict smoking ban ordinance -- nicknamed Smoking Ban Fully Leaded -- that banned smoking in buildings used by the public in Casper.
  • The 2013 ordinance -- nicknamed Smoking Ban Light -- that amended the 2012 ordinance to allow smoking in bars, private areas in buildings such as shops that had public access, and in nursing homes.
  • The ordinance proposed earlier this month that would repeal the 2013 ordinance. This came about after a recount of a 2013 petition to overturn Smoking Ban Light and return to the 2012 Smoking Ban Fully Leaded.
  • The second ordinance proposed earlier this month that would repeal the 2012 ordinance, which would allow smoking anywhere.

Last week, council voted for the third and fourth ordinances.

Tuesday, council reversed itself and killed the third ordinance, and it voted to table the fourth ordinance.

The new ordinances, particularly the third one, came as a result of a Wyoming Supreme Court decision in July that stated the city needed to revise the way it counted the referendum petition signatures that it previously considered invalid. In late August, a recount verified the signatures in question.

On Sept. 8, council followed state law and suspended the 2013 ordinance.

But by refusing to formally repeal the 2013 ordinance, the city now must hold a referendum.

"By voting against repealing the amendments on second reading, that stops the voting process (by council) on the repeal," Powell said. "So the (2013) amendments have not been repealed and will not be repealed, which then puts us back in a place where we are required by state law to schedule an election."

Some council members have said the special election will cost about $30,000.

Before council voted, four people spoke in favor of repealing the 2012 and 2013 ordinances.

Pat Sweeney, owner of Poor Boys Steak House and the Wonderbar, acknowledged council's predicament of either repealing Smoking Ban Light or holding a referendum.

Sweeney urged council to hold the referendum, which meant supporters of the 2013 ordinance were gambling that voters may agree with Keep Casper Smoke Free and reinstate the total smoking ban.

Regardless, the city needs to move on, he said. "I want to get this behind us."

Council member Steve Cathey was the first to say he would change his vote to support the referendum, but not because he was siding with Keep Casper Smoke Free.

"I think everybody on council liked Smoking Light, I wish we could stay there," Cathey said. "But unfortunately, there appeared to be a certain few that wanted to push the petition drive to have their will imposed."

The petition drive gathered about 2,500 signatures, or 10 percent of the qualified electorate to demand a referendum.