MACo Concerned About Bag Bill’s Effect on Working Families & Small Businesses

MACo submitted written testimony at the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs hearing (2016-02-02) opposing legislation (SB 57) that would impose a fee on grocery store paper bags and ban the use of plastic bags for most uses. Senator Victor Ramirez is the bill’s primary sponsor.

The bill, titled the “Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2016,” would prohibit a store from distributing plastic disposable carryout bags to customers at no cost, with certain exceptions such as bags for frozen foods or meat or flowers or other damp items. Stores would also be required to collect a 10-cent fee for each paper disposable carryout bag provided to a customer (again subject to certain exclusions for pharmacy bags and restaurant carry-out bags). A store may retain 5 cents from each 10-cent fee or 7 cents if the store has a bag credit program (the store pays a customer a credit of at least 5 cents for each bag the customer provides for packaging the customer’s purchases).

Any remaining funds go to the Comptroller of Maryland, who retains an amount necessary for the administration of monies, and the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, which receives a portion to cover implementation and enforcement costs. If any funds remain after that, they go to the counties, proportional to the counties’ population for recycling and litter control, community greening, and water pollution reduction projects.

While noting the valid environmental issues posed by plastic bags, MACo expressed concern that the imposition of the 10-cent fee would pose a hardship on both small businesses and working families. From the MACo testimony:

Plastic bags and even paper bags pose environmental challenges and their usage needs to be addressed. However, MACo is concerned that the imposition of the 10-cent fee per paper bag would, over time, constitute an onerous and challenging cost for many working families. Additionally, small businesses would face challenges and costs to implement the bill’s provisions, and if they chose, the bag credit program.

The bill’s cross-file, HB 31, is scheduled to be heard by the House Environmental Matters Committee on February 10.

Useful Links

SB 57

MACo SB 57 Testimony

Prior Conduit Street Coverage on Plastic Bag Fees or Taxes

Senator Victor Ramirez Webpage

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.