LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Key portions of a 2017 state law giving Jefferson County’s small cities the power to opt out of countywide waste management rules are unconstitutional, the Kentucky Supreme Court has found.
Thursday’s high court action is a win for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who challenged the law on the grounds that it ran afoul of the state constitution because it viewed Jefferson County’s 80-plus suburban cities differently than cities in other counties.
The case stemmed from a 2014 policy change by a Fischer-appointed board that banned plastic bags for grass, leaves and other yard waste throughout Jefferson County.
“If the home rule cities in Jefferson County need protection from the power and influence of Louisville Metro, we fail to perceive why smaller home rule cities all over the Commonwealth would not require the same protection from their larger neighbors,” Justice Laurance VanMeter wrote in his opinion on behalf of six of the court’s seven justices.
The case now returns to Franklin Circuit Court for a final ruling.
Gov. Matt Bevin signed House Bill 246 into law in March 2017, altering the makeup and power of the board that oversees Louisville’s recycling and trash collection and giving small cities the ability to opt out of countywide rules – such as the ban on plastic yard-waste bags.
Fischer then filed a lawsuit challenging the measure, telling WDRB News at the time it was part of state lawmakers' "attack on Louisville."
"I am pleased with the court’s finding, which upholds decades of consistent county-wide policies for managing and reducing solid waste in Louisville," Fischer said in a statement. "Plastic bags not only contribute to litter in our streets and waterways, creating a danger to wildlife and a blight on our landscape, but as a petroleum product, their production generates greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to climate change. So this decision is important to our city’s continued work toward greater sustainability.”
Among the defendants in the case is the Jefferson County League of Cities. Bonnie Jung, the mayor of Douglass Hills and the league's president, said she was disappointed in the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling.
"We will be conferring with other partners in this suit before making further comment.”
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