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Prince George's Bag Tax Falters in General Assembly

General Assembly puts brakes on proposed 5-cent plastic bag tax.

A push by state and local officials in Prince George’s County to institute a grocery bag tax has come to a halt in the Maryland General Assembly.

The Gazette reports that on Wednesday the General Assembly County Affairs Subcommittee voted to put the proposal back on the shelf. The legislation would have required retailers to add a 5-cent tax to plastic bags.

Opponents of the legislation said that voters overwhelming opposed the tax.

 Del. Carolyn Howard (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville, who voted against the legislation, said that she received 900 responses against the tax from constituents after sending out a letter.

The vote comes after the Prince George’s County Council endorsed the bag-tax earlier this week in legislation proposed by Mary A. Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel.

Council members said the bill would clean roadways and better protect waterways.

 “I believe really strongly that this is split evenly between pro-environment and pro-business,” said Councilwoman Mary Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel in The Gazette.

Janis Oppelt February 10, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Buckeye, you are so, so right. It's a no-brainer to use reusable bags. Of course, people who love their plastic bags probably would consider it an inconvenience to have to remember to take the reusables into the store.
ivette moore February 10, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Paying an extra nickel for bags makes no sense at all to me. we are already taxed to the hills as it is. I think the state should learn how to better manage the money that we as tax payers have entrusted them with already. Everything is going up except our paychecks. while to some a nickel may seem like a small amount but to me it's a lot when you have other obligations to take care of. If I go to the grocery store or any store in the county and give them my business; then the least they can do is to give me a bag. Come on leaders of PG county we are watching you and it's almost time to VOTE again--trust me we will remember this! I can't pay the FIVE--NO to the Extra FIVE.
Mary Cook February 10, 2012 at 01:35 PM
This bill was an attempt to make citizens conscious of the number of plastic bags they take home with them and then must be recycled by municipalities or taken to the landfill. Five cents a bag will not make or break most people, but I would rather have such a "tax" then to pay to have the hundreds of thousands of bags recycled or pay to have them collected from our roadways and rivers by municipal and county employees which again costs us tax dollars.
D February 10, 2012 at 01:39 PM
This is my issue? How often do we complain about trash in the streets? Now your neighborhood might be clean but their are many that drive into "dirty" neighborhoods and dump their trash. There has to be a culture change that all residents respect the environment. This starts at home and should be reinforced at school. The schools are inconsistent and the homes are unstable so we need to do better job as a community uplifting those to understand the importance of this. For the ones that complain about taxes sometimes do little to help or have a viable solution for all but rather focus on self.
Marcus Afzali February 10, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Its a shame that the committee killed this bill so that the PG County Council won't have the right to take up the issue. This plastic bag "tax" is 100% voluntary as anyone who brings their reusable bags to the store can avoid paying this fee. We have seen huge positive impacts in the amount of plastic bags used in areas that have implemented this program. Too bad Prince George's County is going to once again fall behind compared to those around us.
tanisha February 10, 2012 at 03:34 PM
“I believe really strongly that this is split evenly between pro-environment and pro-business,” said Councilwoman Mary Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel in The Gazette. NO Ms. Lehman is about everyday people like me fed up with politicians like you that want to tax everything.
buckeye February 10, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Wait, where did Marcus say that the fee could be avoided by bringing in old bags for recyling? He said the fee could be avoided by using reusable bags. Not the same thing.
Dana Dunmire February 10, 2012 at 04:03 PM
As a resident of Prince George's County, I'm wondering if our small businesses realize that this bill could have saved them money. They are the only types of businesses who might have difficulty passing the cost of bags on to the consumer. And whether shoppers realize that they are ALREADY paying for the trashing of our communities as big grocers ALREADY pass the cost of bags on to them. The only group helped by this defeat for the county was plastic bag manufacturers--why else would would they pay the big bucks to generate these 100s of robo-emails to delegates?
Rick Hudson February 10, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I was against another tax, however I was resigned to it getting passsed since Montgomery County got their bag tax. I have been far more conscious about my use since the discussion came up. That being said it is a travesty that the State Government took away our county's right to make our own decisions. The people of PG County should be up infuriated by that whether or not they supported the bag tax.
Edward February 10, 2012 at 06:09 PM
"A previous comment said that the county has to pay for the recycling of these bags. That if false. if you look at what is accepted in our recycle stream, it is specifically stated that no plastic film is to go into the recycle bins. It all gets land filled. Taking them to your grocer means that the bags get converted into plastic limber for such things as decking and park benches." This is incorrect. The county residential recycling program explicitly DOES take plastic bags. For more information about what is and isn't recyclable in our county check here: http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/Government/AgencyIndex/DER/waste.asp?nivel=foldmenu(8)#2
Ken Montville February 10, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Rick, I don't think the State was taking the County's decision making power away. I think they were giving the County Council political cover so the Council wouldn't be the ones making the decision. This way they can point to the big, bad State like they do with everything else and convince people that they should be voted in again and again.
Edward February 10, 2012 at 06:10 PM
So take a reusable bag to the store, and you won't have to pay $.05. It's not that hard to avoid the tax.
Richard February 10, 2012 at 06:28 PM
My bad on both counts. I miss read the comment and thought it said plastic bags. As for recycling plastic bags, I do also see that it is a new item. Previously it was not. Notice in this link, it says "new". http://www.collegeparkmd.gov/recycling.htm#Curbside
Matthew Byrd February 11, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Rick, I think this might have more to do with the new gas tax that is working it's way through the State government right now. That tax will be incredibly unpopular, and, according to Peter Franchot, make our gas tax (if not our gas prices) the 4th highest in the country. To impose a "bag tax" either right before or right after that move, would drive people to riot in the streets. Ok, maybe not. But they won't be smiling at the pumps, or the grocery store...or at the polls, when the time comes.
Sarah Weber February 11, 2012 at 03:03 AM
I really wonder how many of those opposed to this bag fee are pausing to understand it. It's not that revenue generated from the fee will be a cash cow. The idea is not to look for more revenue but to change people's behavior concerning the indiscriminate use of wasteful, non-biodegradable plastic bags that have a negative impact on the environment. If you don't want to pay the $.05 then use re-usable grocery bags, plain and simple -- no one is forcing you to buy the bags! Someone commented that by visiting a grocery store the least they could do is give her a bag. I disagree. The least we all can do is change this disposable mindset that says that we are entitled to free non-biodegradable products. None of this is free, actually. Living a disposable lifestyle just transfers greater costs to society in future years, kind of like living off of credit cards.
tcmitssr February 11, 2012 at 04:00 PM
This is another ridiculous example of a "tax and spend" state and an uber liberal governor, who wants to be President, doing whatever it can to keep diminishing the income of its citizens. Instead of a bag tax, it would be a far better idea if the State of Maryland adopted a version of the TRIM amendment from P.G. County and applied it instead to the totality of the state's annual budget.
tcmitssr February 11, 2012 at 09:24 PM
How about the State of Maryland stop interfering in something as insignificant as to whether we want one plastic bag or two and, instead, do something productive like lower taxes, cut state spending and implement an austerity budget? Of course a liberal Governor whose sight is set on the White House in 2016 will never consider anything but tax and spend in any ways that he can.
Matthew Byrd February 12, 2012 at 06:14 AM
I appreciate the irony in your comment, LH. I don't miss paper bags. I still remember the paper cuts, the awkward balancing-acts, and the frustration of walking up to a 3rd story apartment, only to have one rip open on the stairwell. They certainly had their own share of environmental problems. The reality is that plastic bags are far more convenient than we give them credit for, and if we're going to make any real progress on the issue, it will require more than a penalty-tax on consumers. We need to develop a new material that will retain all the advantages of the current plastic grocery bag, while eliminating their primary (and perhaps only) drawback: Their environmental indestructability. If a tax went to that effort, instead of filling-in the holes in some irresponsible government's budget, I'd support it. But I won't support the government pick-pocketing folks at the grocery store, in the name of "protecting the environment". Once plastic bags become a revenue stream for the government, there will no longer be any incentive to fix the problem. The environmental issues are real, but we insist on maintaining the illusion of caring, instead of responding to the challenge in a meaningful way. It's like buying renewable energy credits, instead of turning the computers and lights off at night. It's a guilt-offset, not a solution. The goal should not be to tax people out of using plastic bags: It should be to reinvent the bag, itself.
Barry February 12, 2012 at 12:04 PM
A lot of the comments are how its good that this tax will "teach" people how to use less bags or care more about the environment. My question is, do we really want the gov to teach people using taxes? Whats next, diapers? Disposable diapers are a huge problem. Maybe we should put an extra tax on that so that people use cloth diapers? Where does it end?
Ed James February 12, 2012 at 03:24 PM
"Where does it end?" - excellent question - even switching to cloth diapers isn't the end, there's always the "flush tax". Perhaps a good start would be using materials that are really recyclable, which most plastics are not. Glass and aluminum jars and cans can be reused for new jars and cans. Many plastic items can't be recycled this way and are repurposed into other items, or burned, or buried.
tcmitssr February 12, 2012 at 05:03 PM
It ends when the 56 percent of us who pay for federal and state government as well as subsidize the 44 percent who pay nothing at all, decided to join the 44 percent and begin taking back from the government instead of paying in to it. The lie of Obama is not the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent but the 56 percent vs. the 44. We are taxed ENOUGH by: the Federal government, the State of Maryland, P.G. County and Greenbelt. No new taxes, period! It does not matter what they are called or how they are referred but the time has come to both cut taxes and freeze government spending at every level of it.
Jack Wilkerson February 13, 2012 at 03:39 PM
I work for a plastic bag company. The irony of the Anti-Bag laws is they are against the environment. We make a windfall in profits from grocery bag bans. Currently everyone reuses 6 gram grocery bags as household trash bags. After a community bans bags, we get to sell the heavier 18 gram trash bags when everyone runs out of the free bags under the kitchen sink. We sell bags by the pound. Trash bags bring higher profits per pound. Ireland banned bags in 2007. Today production is up 400%. Manufacturers in Ireland have hired 300 extra workers and added a shift to production. All scientific Environmental Impact Statements in UK, Scotland, France, Australia, etc. have confirmed the minimum impact method of transporting groceries home is the 6 gram bag. 75 bags per lb. No pollution for production. Paper bags are the worst, contributing to global pollution and deforestation at 7 bags per lb. Reusable bags require virtual slave labor to produce.
Mark G March 28, 2012 at 04:46 PM
People who are railing about the nickel bag fee and calling it a "tax" are misguided. It is a simple way to reduce the amount of trash generated in the county by asking consumers to pay for what they use. I appreciate the problems of people who say they are financially strapped and don't want to pay more taxes etc. On the other hand when I look at what people are buying at the grocery stores and other stores, i don't see these purchases as reflecting great poverty or deprivation. The simple fact is that our environment is being trashed in many ways by plastic bags. Perhaps, if bags are seen as such as terrible imposition upon people's freedom, what we need is stepped up enforcement of littering laws, with fines starting at $100 for the first littlering offense and/or some community service time picking up those wonderful plastic bags so dear to the hearts of freedom loving Americans, that these same patriots have casually tossed from thier vehicles as they ride down the highways..
tcmitssr March 28, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Once again, the State of Maryland and Gov Spendening Jr. should look for ways to be much more pro-business as well as pro-growth in as many ways as possible rather than think the answer to everything is "tax more and reallocate income."
Ken Montville March 28, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I'm really surprised that no one from The Patch decided to report on two interesting developments: a) the bag tax died in Committee and b) the MD Senate passed a casino bill adding one more site (Prince George's) to the existing sites and allowing tables games like backjack and roulette. So, now we'll have all the infrastructure costs as well as the social costs of "gaming" with damn little to show for it (obviously the existing sites haven't been fully developed or the revenue projected realized by the State). So no conservation, plenty of excess. Yay!
tcmitssr March 28, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Full casino gaming should have been part of the initial slots package when proposed. It's about time! This will provide more: good, well-paying and secure jobs at multiple levels of educational and abilities for our county's residents. It cannot be approved, completed and open, fast enough!
Joshua Garner (Editor) March 28, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Patch did post a story on the bag tax faltering in the General Assembly, again. http://laurel.patch.com/articles/prince-george-s-bag-tax-bill-falters-again
Ken Montville March 28, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Sorry, Joshua. I guess I missed it since it didn't appear in the daily digest that hits my e-mail every morning..
Sandy Irving March 28, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I row on the Anacostia River down in Bladensburg, and I see all the stuff that washes in after every rain. It doesn't bother me if the people who want the convenience of plastic bags pay for their cost. Their full cost. I have to say I haven't figured out a satisfactory replacement for the plastic kitchen trash bag. If I'm not ready to compost. But buying a few reusable shopping bags is really not a hardship.
Barry March 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Rowing around trash in the Anacostia isn't a hardship either. Perhaps if we tax the people rowing in the public waterways we will have money to have this trash cleaned up.

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