Kentucky Supreme Court to Decide Who has the Authority to Enact Ban in Bullitt County

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COURIER JOURNAL | BAILEY LOOSEMORE | JANUARY 26, 2014

Bullitt Fiscal Court’s recent decision to ban smoking in county-owned buildings prompted a new question in the county’s long debate over smoking: Does the ban repeal a 2011 Bullitt Board of Health regulation that prohibits smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants? Elected county officials say it does repeal the 2011 ban, but health officials contend it does not.

Now that question will be decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court, which is already considering whether the Bullitt Board of Health had the power to enact the smoking ban.

Bullitt Fiscal Court and the eight cities within the county filed a lawsuit in 2011 to overturn the smoking ban, claiming the Board of Health did not have the right to implement a ban.

Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress agreed, stopping the ban before it could take effect. But the state Court of Appeals overturned Burress’ ruling, saying the Board of Health has the authority to impose regulations involving public health, including a smoking ban.

Bullitt Fiscal Court appealed that decision a year ago, and the outcome is pending before the state Supreme Court.

While waiting for a ruling that could be years away, fiscal court passed its narrower smoking ban Jan. 15 — an ordinance that also repeals all “administrative regulations” inconsistent with it, including the 2011 smoking ban.

County Attorney Monica Robinson has said fiscal court is the only county governing body with power to make those decisions and that any ruling it makes would supersede those of legislative bodies beneath it.

Board of Health attorney Robert Flaherty disagrees, saying no state law gives fiscal court power to retract a Board of Health regulation.

State law says boards of health can adopt administrative regulations “necessary to protect the health of the people.”

Statewide interest

Boards of health statewide are now looking to the Supreme Court for an answer: Are there limits to what they can do?

“This could cause many issues if we don’t have the power the Kentucky statute says we do,” Kentucky Health Department Association president Scott Lockard said.

Read the full article online here.