On Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down a 2011 smoking ban passed by the Bullitt County Board of Health, saying the board had exceeded its authority by passing it.
When it was passed, the board claimed it had the ability to enact such bans under the auspice of preventing health risks caused by secondhand smoke. It covered all public places, including bars and restaurants.
In the Supreme Court’s opinion, authored by Justice Bill Cunningham, the decision came down to which government entity has the rights to make such laws. While local boards of health have the power to adopt regulations “necessary to protect public health,” they does not mean that they are able to “adopt any regulation relating to that broad field.”
Additionally, the court warned about a fourth branch of government coming into play, which it called “the regulatory state,” should unelected officials be given too much power.
The court’s decision was unanimous.
As it stands now, Bullitt Fiscal Court could enact a ban but appears reluctant to do so. It was Fiscal Court and the eight cities in the county who originally sued to have the ban overturned. A Bullitt Circuit judge agreed with Fiscal Court that the board of health did not have the power to enact a ban, only to have the decision overturned by the State Court of Appeals, who said that the board does in fact have the right to pass a smoking ban in the name of protecting public health.