After several months of discussion about its makeup and its goals, Chautauqua County's Clean Air 2000 Committee has finally met -- and begun finding areas of agreement.
"I think that certainly there was cause to have another meeting, and we hope that we can report back to the Human Services Committee at their March meeting," Legislator Nancy G. Bargar, D-Lakewood, told county legislators Wednesday night.
The 12-member committee, which held its first meeting Jan. 19, was created in response to last year's impasse over legislation banning smoking in public places. The committee will try to develop a compromise on smoking restrictions.
Members of the committee are bar, club and restaurant owners, a bowling alley owner, representatives of the Tobacco Coalition and the health department, and lawmakers. Bargar said finding common ground was the first goal.
"We were deciding areas of agreement rather than areas of disagreement at that first meeting," she said. "Our charge for the next meeting is to come up with compromise suggestions."
In fact, she said, she had just received four suggestions that will be discussed at the next meeting, Feb. 9.
Last year's attempt at legislation similar to what Erie County has in place met stiff opposition from owners of businesses, especially restaurants. The proposal for Chautauqua County would have banned smoking in restaurants but provided some exemptions -- for bars, separate bar areas of restaurants, and bowling alleys and bingo halls.
Even the makeup of the committee became controversial when one group of club owners complained it wasn't adequately represented.
That issue now dealt with, Bargar said there has been progress.
"While we're certainly coming from a history of polarization on the issue . . . the intent is to have people at the table who were not included in previous discussions like this," she said.
Bargar is co-chairman of the panel with Legislator Fred Croscut, R-Sherman.