Bullitt Co. Fiscal Court tables county building anti-tobacco ordinance

Published: Jan. 7, 2014 at 6:04 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2014 at 9:44 PM EST
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Bullitt Fiscal Court during its January 7, 2014 meeting
Bullitt Fiscal Court during its January 7, 2014 meeting
Monica Robinson
Monica Robinson
Carol Riker
Carol Riker
A woman at the meeting gives the Fiscal Court members her opinion.
A woman at the meeting gives the Fiscal Court members her opinion.

SHEPHERDSVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's not a debate over whether to light up, but rather, where one can light up and who gets to make that decision. The hot button issue has lit a divide between the Bullitt County Fiscal Court and Bullitt County Board of Health.

Inside a packed Bullitt County fiscal courtroom Tuesday, board members revisited plans to ban tobacco use in county owned and operated buildings and workplaces.

"We have no prohibition on smoking of any kind," said Bullitt County Attorney Monica Robinson. "Some people are smoking inside."

The proposed non-smoking measure developed after a formal request by a resident--the first ever in the county.

"She was a health care professional and had asked the county to pass a smoking regulation of some form," said Robinson.

The anti-tobacco measure, however, would not be the only effort of its kind in the area. In March 2011, the Bullitt County Board of Health passed a countywide smoking ban. The health board's regulation, however, applied to bars, restaurants and other public places including outdoor venues.

"The health department passed a regulation trying to make that enforceable as a law in the county," said Robinson.

Members of the Fiscal Court deemed the widespread regulation unauthorized. As a result, Bullitt County officials teamed with city leaders to file a lawsuit.

"We all agree that an administrative body can pass regulations that regulate that administrative body but," began Robinson, "it is the county's position, that only a legislative body can pass a law."

Much to Carol Riker's dismay, the decision over which agency holds the decision-making power now rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.

"It has broader implications. Not just for smoke-free but for all other kinds of health regulations," said Riker, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing. "What can health departments do to protect health?"

According to Riker, a "yes" vote in Fiscal Court could send the existing health board tobacco ban up in smoke.

"This is a critical issue that is raised by this proposed ordinance because with sections two and sections four prohibiting policy to be applied in private buildings and repelling any other laws or regulations that are in conflict with it," began Riker. "It would essentially nullify the board of health regulation if the Supreme Court upholds it."

Without the entire Fiscal Court present Tuesday, board members opted to discuss the proposed ordinance but refrain from making a decision. The board decided to table their vote instead.

A special Fiscal Court meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, January 15 at 6 p.m. at the Bullitt County Courthouse.

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