MACo Proposes Amendments to Plastic Bag Bill to Prevent Preemption

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified to the House Environment & Transportation & Economic Matters Committee to support with amendments HB 209 – Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act.

The bill would prohibit retailers from providing customers with certain plastic carryout bags and require that retailers collect 10 cents for every “durable bag” they provide. However, the bill would also needlessly preempt incoming or already established bag ban programs in Baltimore City and Howard and Montgomery Counties and in practice prohibit any other county from establishing such a program. Additionally, the bill requires counties to act as the enforcers of the bill’s provisions.

From the MACo Testimony:

Currently, Howard County imposes a 5-cent fee on plastic bags. The estimated revenue per year for the County is $685,400, and the money collected is allocated to worthy causes such as providing reusable bags to vulnerable residents and grants for water quality measures. Montgomery County has a 5-cent fee which generates roughly $2.5 million dollars per year. That money goes into their Water Quality Protection Charge (WPQC) fund that provides financing for improvements to the water quality of local streams and efforts to reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff. Baltimore City just enacted a 5-cent fee and will use a portion of that fee for program administration and enforcement.

The attached amendments would maintain the overall objectives in the bill while also addressing the preemption issue by requiring that 5 cents from the bill’s proposed 10-cent fee would go to county governments for water quality projects, litter control initiatives, reusable bag programs for vulnerable residents, and enforcement efforts under the bill.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2020 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.