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Parties want to join in suit over smoking ban

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Hearing to be held in August on disputes over health board’s action

By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - The smoking ban approved by the Bullitt Count Board of Health won’t go into effect until September. But before it does, there will be legal issues that must be decided.

Attorneys for the health department, Bullitt Fiscal Court, the eight cities and several parties which have asked to join the litigation spoke with Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress on Monday.

At the end of the brief legal discussion, Burress set an Aug. 25 hearing date on the lawsuit challenging the ability of the health board to impose the smoking ban in the county.

On April 18, the parties will discuss the motion to allow Bullitt County Choice and other private businesses, including Publishers Printing and Copy Cats, to join the litigation.

On Monday, Mount Washington attorney Norman Lemme argued that information submitted by the health department relating to surveys and polls should not be allowed in the court files as evidence.

County attorney Monica Meredith Robinson said that there is no question that the Board of Health has the ability to pass regulations; however, she said there is a legal question on whether the agency could pass ordinances that would supercede the legislative bodies.

The Board of Health voted 7-2 to approve the countywide smoking ban in public places. That occurred at its meeting last Tuesday.

That decision came after a University of Kentucky study was conducted about air quality in the county dealing with public places where smoking is allowed. Due to the high air quality problems, the health department started a formal look into the smoking ban.

A motion Monday to ask for injunctive relief may not be necessary due to the effective date of September, said Lemme.

Attorney Peggy Miller, representing the health department, said there could be a motion filed asking the county attorney’s office to disqualify.

Robinson said following the hearing that there is a statute that states that the county attorney and commonwealth attorney can provide legal advice to special districts, such as the health department.

However, Robinson said that no one from the health department had inquired any legal assistance from her office. But, her first legal obligation would be to fiscal court, which asked that she pursue any legal steps needed to stop the adoption of the smoking ban.

Contrary to some rumors, Robinson said there is no additional charge incurred by county government and she didn’t know of any of the city attorneys who would be charging their municipalities extra for the litigation.

She added that the health department is a taxing district and Robinson wasn’t aware of the board voting to pay for its legal representation.