The article (“Proposal would allow Howard County to impose a 5 cent bag tax”) from the Baltimore Sun / Howard County Times plus my follow up article (“5 Cent Bag Tax Coming To Howard County?”) outlining some additional information and my personal feelings about a possible Bag Tax coming to Howard County generated some buzz on social media.

One of the striking things from the Baltimore Sun / Howard County Times article were the lack comments in the article from the newly elected members of the Howard County Council. This is what was reported in the article: (note – I threw in the comment from County Executive-elect Calvin Ball from the article because it is equally important in terms of a potential local bill in the future if the legislation is passed in Annapolis.)

County Executive-elect Calvin Ball said he is “not considering proposing a bag tax in Howard County,” and would not say if he would veto a measure if one is passed by the council, according to a spokeswoman.

David Yungmann, a Republican from District 5 who was elected to the five-member council this month, said the fee could be regressive.

“It would disproportionately effect the people that cannot afford it,” Yungmann said.

None of the other future council members, who will be sworn in Dec. 3, responded to requests for comment.

I reached out to all five Howard County Council elect members via Facebook Messenger and email (after I wrote my article) to see if I could get a comment on this topic. Here is what each sent has me at this point:

Howard County Council District 1 – Liz Walsh

No response via Facebook or email

Howard County Council District 2 – Opel Jones

“I am interested in economically conscience efforts, but must review the data behind a nominal plastic bag tax. I would love to see if several studies have been conducted, both locally and regionally, to determine statistical significance of a decrease in plastic bag use when a tax was imposed.”

Howard County Council District 3 – Christiana Rigby

“The county needs to look at a holistic waste reduction plan for the county and the creation of an environment that encourages the reduction of single use items such as styrofoam, plastic straws, and plastic bags. The green bin program should also be evaluated for effectiveness and cost to see if we can expand implementation.”

Howard County Council District 4 – Deb Jung

“As a general principle, I support delegation of excise tax and fee setting authority (such as development impact fees) to local governments which is the essence of the “Bag Tax” bill. In order to reduce waste disposal costs and promote environmental protection and sustainability, I also support reasonable “zero waste” policies. I generally shop with a reusable bag myself but must admit that sometimes I forget it. Should the General Assembly pass enabling legislation, and should local legislation be introduced, I am confident that the Council will review the success or failure of this approach in other jurisdictions, the scope of the problem and estimated fiscal impact of such a tax in Howard County, as well as existing voluntary efforts here. Without prejudging the merits of any bag tax proposal, if it is shown that a bag tax does not have the intended effect of changing consumer behavior and improving the environment, I probably would not support such a proposal and would prefer to provide additional needed funds for litter control, stormwater improvements and watershed protection through traditional direct appropriation”.

“By the way, count me as a supporter of a statewide ban on plastic bags.”

Howard County Council District 5 – David Yungmann

“I oppose a plastic bag tax because it’s a regressive tax that disproportionally affects lower income residents and is unlikely to change behavior enough to achieve a material environmental impact.”

Three  Four out of five responded to me yesterday so far…I will take that as a win…and I appreciate each council-elect members that responded to my request. If Walsh or Jung responds…I will update the article.

I am not sure what the statements above show…except that David Yungmann would oppose a bag tax and Calvin Ball is not considering it at this time. I also only got comments from three four of the five incoming council members…so I am still very interested in hearing thoughts from Walsh and Jung.

One of the things I hope to do with articles on the blog going forward is to get comments from locally elected officials where appropriate.

I mentioned the buzz generated on social media…here are some stats from Facebook from my article published yesterday morning:

So the post has reached nearly 7,000 people and had nearly 3,000 engagements (likes, comments, shares and clicks) over the past day. If nothing else…it got the conversation started on this topic.

Here are some of the observations from the comments on this topic on Facebook I read yesterday and this morning:

  • There have been a lot of positive comments in the community for the bag tax. Many feel this would be the right approach and would have no problem paying the tax or using reusable bags when they go shopping.
  • There have been an equal number of comments very much against a bag tax. They feel this is the wrong approach to reducing plastic bags locally (especially when you look at the data from Montgomery County).
    • A big subset of those that oppose the tax would be in favor of a plastic bag ban at point of sale in Howard County. I believe that if this were the bill headed to Annapolis you would see a good number of residents support it. I wonder if any of the local State Senators or Delegates headed to Annapolis in January will consider that approach? My gut says no…but one can always hope.

I am planning on many more articles on this topic…maybe reaching out to State Senators and State Delegates for comments….sharing some information and data from the DC Bag tax…which was mentioned more than a few times yesterday and today…and some additional items on my “articles to write” board.

There is a meeting on the 26th where you can testify on this topic…I highly recommend you go and make your voice heard on this issue: https://www.facebook.com/events/215830869169325/

Scott E

3 COMMENTS

  1. Montgomery County’s law provides free reusable bags to low income people, so the argument that it hurts the poor is a nonstarter. The money collected goes into cleaning up their waterways of litter so that people who chose to use plastic bags are paying for the clean up instead of general taxpayer dollars.

  2. Howard County provides recycling bins to each resident of the county. Why can’t the county provide at least 2 reusable shopping bags to each household, maybe emblazoned with the county logo. This might encourage people to use the bags instead of using plastic.

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