The Detroit News just posted this update on the lawsuit L. Brooks Patterson was filing against the State of Michigan
Pontiac — In a surprise reversal, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Thursday he intends to withdraw a lawsuit filed Thursday against the State of Michigan for not providing the requisite funding to counties to enforce the smoking ban law, which takes effect May 1.
“I have had 70 phone calls and 30 e-mails criticizing what I was about to do,” said Patterson. “I am a public servant. I work for these people. So I have decided to withdraw the lawsuit.”
Patterson stressed he has never been against a no-smoking ban — and feels it is the right thing to do. But Patterson said the law, as it stands now, amounts to an “unfunded mandate” if county health departments must oversee and enforce the ban and that Oakland County doesn’t have the resources to enforce it.
“We still aren’t sure how we are going to handle this,” Patterson said. “I figure this would cause us to double the number of sanitarians in the health department to adequately enforce it at over 4,600 establishments across the county, a cost of about $1.8 million in Oakland County alone.
“I imagine there could be thousands of calls we would never get to … and I suspect this will 95-98 percent be self-enforced by patrons and businesses.”
Gov. Jennifer Granholm in December signed the smoking ban into law to make most workplaces, restaurants and bars smoke-free. The only exceptions are the Detroit casinos, cigar bars, tobacco specialty stores, home offices and motor vehicles.
James McCurtis, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Community Health, said Thursday the agency will enforce the ban in non-restaurant settings in Oakland County and for some other local health departments.
A message was left Thursday with the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which will oversee the ban in restaurants.
Oakland County’s Democratic leaders were vowing to block Patterson’s lawsuit. Dave Coulter, Democratic leader of the county Board of Commissioners, said Thursday he planned to introduce a resolution next week banning the use of county tax money for what he calls the “ill-advised” lawsuit.
“The county executive proposes to waste taxpayer dollars on a frivolous suit to block a law that enjoys widespread support in Oakland County,” Coulter said.
The lawsuit, Coulter said, would make enforcement of the ban more difficult by sending a message that Oakland County establishments won’t be regulated.
“Our Health Department currently inspects these establishments anyway, and I know we’re at least as capable as those in 50 percent of the country that now enforce smoke-free laws without significant issues,” Coulter said.