County “Bag Tax” Authority Lives, Then Dies

Over the weekend, legislation seeking to authorize counties to impose a 5-cent “bag tax” on disposable plastic or paper bags from retailers was passed by one House Committee, only to be defeated by another. With the second committee’s rejection of the bill, the proposal is presumed to be defeated for the 2013 session. The bill had been jointly assigned to two committees in the House, a somewhat unusual procedure usually reflecting a broad policy reach of the initial proposal.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun:

In a setback for environmentalists, a House committee killed a bill Saturday that would have enabled counties to impose a fee on disposable plastic and paper bags given out by stores to carry merchandise.

The Economic Matters Committee voted 14-9 to disapprove the measure, sponsored by Del. Mary Washington, a Baltimore Democrat. The bill had earlier been passed by the Environmental Affairs Committee but required the approval of both panels.

The legislation would have placed a 5-cent fee on bags – with exceptions for such items as carry-out food and dry-cleaning – and would have let the stores retain one cent of the fee to compensate for administrative costs. The bill would have directed the proceeds of the fee to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for distribution to the counties to pay for trash cleanup and other environmental programs.

HB 1086 was introduced as a statewide proposal, but in recent days had gained renewed attention as a “local option” for counties.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties