Final 'draw' Wednesday on smoking

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Special meeting on Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. may include vote on smoking ban

By Thomas Barr

 HEPHERDSVILLE -- Those wishing to learn the fate of the county's proposed smoking ban in government buildings owned or leased by Bullitt Fiscal Court will have to return a week later.

With magistrate Bob Hunt unable to attend Tuesday due to an illness, Bullitt Fiscal Court agreed to delay any discussion or vote on the proposed ban.

A special meeting to only speak about that topic will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the courthouse. The public is invited.

Realizing that there was no ordinance in place to stop a person from smoking in its buildings, Bullitt Fiscal Court directed county attorney Monica Robinson to prepare an ordinance.

In that ordinance, there would be a prohibition to smoking inside any facility owned or leased by county government. Besides the courthouse and its annex, that would include the Bullitt County Judicial Center, the county EMS facility on Saltwell Drive, the leased property housing the American Red Cross and the Multi-Purpose Community Action Agency/Senior Citizens facility. 

It would also include the building on North Buckman Street which houses the coroner's office, Bullitt County Chamber of Commerce and Bullitt County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

An ordinance which seemed to draw no opposition was suddenly challenged during the second reading in December.

Various individuals from health-related organizations were concerned with two sections of the ordinance.

The concern was that language in the proposed ordinance could supersede a countywide smoking ban in public places. This was a regulation approved by the Bullitt County Board of Health.

Once it was approved, the county, as well as the municipalities, challenged the legality of the regulation.

The argument had nothing to do with the validity of a smoking ban. Instead, it totally dealt with who had the ability to pass laws.

Robinson contends that elected legislative officials, such as fiscal court or city councils, should retain those rights.

That argument gained support from Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress.

However, upon consideration by the state Court of Appeals, the Bullitt County Public Board of Health won.

The matter is at the state Supreme Court but Robinson said it might take at least a year for any decision.

Language that concerns the smoking ban supporters states that the county ordinance would supersede any Board of Health regulation. 

That would prohibit public businesses from being part of the ban.

Robinson explained in December that the fiscal court members wanted a mechanism that helped reduce the amount of second-hand smoke in the county.

They also wanted to make sure smoking was not allowed in county facilities.

She said the matter never involved the healthiness of smoking versus non-smoking.

With television cameras present, magistrate Ruthie Ashbaugh said that the matter was important enough to table until all the elected officials were present to vote.

County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts felt it should be a night-time special meeting to allow everyone an opportunity to attend.

But magistrate John Bradshaw wasn't sure they the delay would be needed.

In voting against the ordinance previously, Bradshaw said the second reading and public hearing had been held previously and he didn't know what the delay would do to change minds.

Bradshaw voted against the tabling of the discussion or the calling of a special meeting.

At the previous meeting, Bradshaw voiced his concern about the government getting involved in telling private businesses how to operate.

After the court voted 3-1 to hold the special meeting, resident Gary Board inquired about what version of the ordinance would be presented on Jan. 15.

Ashbaugh said the court gave Robinson no direction to remove the two sections in question and the proposal to be considered on Wednesday would be the same as the original.