Howard County Bag Tax Update – January 30, 2019

The Howard County Bag Tax bill (Howard County – Authority to Impose Fees for Use of Disposable Bags, Ho. Co. 4–19) in front of the Howard County Delegation in Annapolis remains in limbo today as the topic was tabled for the second time (tabled on January 23rd and tabled again on January 30th).

Delegate Terri Hill live streamed the meeting on the 30th…you can watch it HERE..and Senator Lam live streamed it as well…watch it HERE. Much of the conversation was around a letter from the Howard County Council and a statement from Howard County Executive on this topic…then discussions on two (or three) amendments to this bill.

The Howard County Council sent a letter (signed by four of the five members of the council) to the delegation. Here is that letter (CLICK HERE). Felix Facchine (District Aide, District 3) also sent me the following additional information:

Thank you for reaching out to Councilwoman Mercer Rigby regarding the letter that some members of the County Council sent to the Howard County Delegation concerning Ho. Co. 04-19

I have attached the letter to this email, along with a brief description of the letter’s intent.

 “Councilmembers Mercer Rigby, Jones, Jung, and Walsh submitted a letter to the Howard County Delegation expressing support for the passage of Ho. Co. 04-19, concerning Howard County’s authority to impose fees on the use of disposable bags. The four signing members of the Council agreed that the Howard County Council should have greater authority over determining local environmental and fiscal policy through this enabling legislation.

The four signing members of the Council did not write this statement to expressly support the passage of a fee on disposable bags at the local level. Rather, they support the measure to expand local control over this topic. Each Councilmember has a differing opinion on how to address reduction of single-use plastics in Howard County, but agrees that expanding local control on this matter is appropriate. The signing members of the Council look forward to the Delegation’s decision on Ho. Co. 04-19 and the continued discussion on this issue.”

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

I want to give a BIG thank you to Felix Facchine for getting me this information this afternoon. I have a lot of comments about this letter…but I think I am going to save that for a future blog post…so stay tuned.

Maureen Evans Arthurs (Director of Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships) read a statement from the Howard County Executive Ball to the delegation. Here is a copy of that statement (CLICK HERE). My thoughts on this statement: Neither directly for or against the bill…but they are watching closely…so I hope someone from the administration has also reviewed the numbers I have been talking about over the past few months…and they do some research in our communities to see if the citizens of this county want to pay 5 cents for every bag at checkout. I want to personally give a big thank you to Scott Peterson (Director of Communications) for getting me a copy of the statement this afternoon for this post.

One of the amendments was about adding paper bags to this bill. Thankfully this was voted down by the delegation. Voting yes were: Lam, Hester  | Voting no were: Hill, Atterbeary, Ebersole, Feldmark, Kittleman, Miller, Pendergrass, Terrasa, Watson | Not voting: Guzzone (he was not in attendance due to a conflicting meeting). I asked for confirmation of this vote (as it was difficult to hear the audio on the live stream) and received the following notification “Before I answer I have to confirm with my legal counsel to make sure we agree on the vote results.”…so if I did not hear the audio correctly and I get a correction I will be sure to update this post…but to the best of my ability in listening to the audio…the results are as listed above.

The other amendment(s) had to do with how the money raised through this tax on the shoppers would be used in the county. This is what held things up today and it was during this discussion that the bill was tabled until State Senator Guy Guzzone could attend and further explain the amendment(s) and help answer some questions.

If I had to guess…this bill will eventually make it through the delegation and into committee in the near future. I am not thrilled with that possibility…but it is looking more and more like that is what is going to happen. I will continue to advocate for a plastic bag ban over a punitive tax on shoppers to “change our behavior” at this level and at all levels (state and county) going forward…and continue to track (to the best of my ability) who votes yes and who votes no on this and all future bag tax bills for Howard County.

The Howard County Bag Tax will be brought up again in a future meeting (I am guessing next week)…so stay tuned for a notification about the time and place of the next meeting.

Scott E

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