If you did not see my post (Howard County Bag Tax Update – January 30, 2019) you might have missed the letter from the Howard County Council to the Howard County Delegation in Annapolis about the Bag Tax Bill (HoCo 4-19). Here is the letter that they sent:

Click to enlarge

 

Now here are some notable items:

1) Council Member David Yungmann is not listed in this letter. I decided to reach out and find out why. Here is information he sent to me via email:

While I generally support state-level bills that give Howard County more autonomy and control over its fiscal affairs, I elected not to participate in the letter to the Delegation supporting Ho. Co. 04-19.

First, I don’t like the idea of a State Delegate or Senator expecting the County Council to pledge its support of something on which it has held no public hearings, work sessions or debate at the county level. If Howard County residents want a new local policy or initiative, I believe it should be handled at the local County Council level through its normal public process. If the result of that local process requires enabling legislation, I would expect the Delegation to support that outcome.

Next, while local public debate on the policy has yet to occur, I’ve heard nothing to date that would alter my opposition to a bag tax. The letter is a pledge of support for not merely more local control, but for a specific new tax on county citizens and business that has not been vetted by the County Council.

Despite my decision to not participate in the letter, I appreciate the Chair’s effort to accommodate my perspective by making some significant revisions to the first draft of the letter.

David Yungmann
Howard County Council – District 5
(410) 313-2001
https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/Districts/District-5

2) Does the Council support this bill or not?

While I was sent this message: “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.”…OK…but this really looks like support to me….and something I expect we will see locally if it is passed in Annapolis this session. The Council has the ability to implement a plastic bag ban without this bill…and if they were serious about reducing plastics in our area…they would pursue that avenue and not support a punitive tax on shoppers locally.

The other scary thing in the letter is the want to have “greater purview over the scope of this discussion as it relates to setting local fees”…seriously…they want the ability to exceed the cap of 5 cents per bag noted in this bill…the ability to make that fee greater…this should scare all of the readers of this post.

Folks…do not sleep on this issue if you do not want a fee on every bag that a store provides you…this tax is a way to punish shoppers for not bringing reusable bags with them to the store when shopping and taking a product (plastic bag) that a store provides them at checkout. What this tax is not is a measure to stop stores from providing that product. This bill is being promoted as a way to “change the habits of shoppers”…not a way to seriously tackle the number of plastics bags given away by stores…because a plastic bag ban does that…not this tax. This tax does provide significant revenue for the local jurisdiction…is that what this is all about??? Maybe something to think about as we move forward.

I promise this will stay front and center on my radar…and I will make sure everyone knows who in Annapolis believes that you and I should pay 5 cents for every plastic bag we are GIVEN at checkout.

Scott E

8 COMMENTS

  1. NO to a bag tax. While I understand the concept, and agree that single use bags should be discouraged , I do not agree with taxing the use of plastic bags in the county. I think there are better ways to modify shoppers habits. Why not have a campaign to encourage multi-use bags, or ask stores not to offer plastic bags. (the Disney Store in the Mall already does this).The County could offer each household a couple of multi-use bags, emblazoned with the county logo. Anything except ANOTHER tax. Besides, I don’t think a tax will help to keep plastic bags out of our rivers and streams. I think not using plastic bags will.

  2. The fee is for a service being provided and the funds would be used for a positive environmental purpose. Let’s not get into the same hysterics about a “rain tax”. Some people just don’t want to pay the real costs for the services they get, no matter how small they are.

  3. Agree with the two of you, including Jonathan’s point about the having a true campaign to minimize the use of plastic bags. Just like the County gives us containers to encourage recycling (and composting, for those areas that have that option), why not make the offer to households that don’t have – and/or can’t afford – multi-use bags? They can drop of requested bags on recycling days so no extra resources needed. Having worked in Montgomery County after they imposed the tax, I can tell you that the tax did nothing to reduce usage. Granted, they did use the revenue for sustainability efforts (e.g, offering recycling containers to business, stream clean-ups, etc.), and if that’s what Howard wants to do, let’s discuss, but you’ve laid out perfectly the stats that show that this won’t work as a reduction mechanism. Thanks for keeping this issue front and center.

  4. I find the plastic bags useful and helpful. I’m old enough to remember paper bags that were awkward to carry (no handle) and often busted while you were using them (summer humidity + cold milk = condensation). Reusable bags are sources of disgusting bacterial contamination (go ahead and Google it if you have a strong stomach). I always recycle my bags so they are friendly to the environment compared to paper bags and in fact compare well to reusable bags too.

    If there is a plastic bag tax, I’ll enjoy feeling rich as a I slap a $5 bill on the counter and tell the clerk to pile on the bags because I want at least 50 of them! Finally, a chance to be a big spender that’s within my budget!

    I am tired of the virtue signalling gestures by politicians that accomplish nothing. If there are no plastic bags at stores there will still be tons and tons of plastic wrapping and padding coming into the county from Amazon and Walmart. Other counties are banning carry-out styrofoam but doing nothing about Amazon’s styrofoam shipping materials, same principle. It’s all about politicians trying to get re-elected by appearing to do “something” regardless if it will attain any useful outcome. Meanwhile important problems with the schools and parks and libraries and public safety are left to languish unmentioned because dealing with their problems would require making unpopular decisions between competing uses for limited funds, and who wants to do that?

  5. I agree with all the above points AGAINST the bag tax. The imposed tax does NOTHING to fix the underlying cause of excessive environmental waste.
    I think a different new approach needs to be taken. As in consumer education.
    Further, there are many low income residents in Hoco. that use EBT cards, to pay for groceries, i believe cashiers will take this into account at the end of a transaction and end up not imposing the tax for these customers anyway. Because, what happens if they don’t have coins for the added unnecessary burden of a tax? Many don’t have cars and can’t simply hand carry their groceries(as i see some residents doing in Montgomery county).
    A plastic bag fee does nothing to deter the use of plastic bags, it does not effect the overall production of them, or lessen the amount in landfills.
    Some residents like the gentleman mentioned above use them for other purposes. I do also.
    A plastic bag tax does not slow down production for plastic bags. Its just a tax and a way for new local govt. to create to an illusion they are “fixing” environmental issues, with zero afterthought for REAL issues at ground level.
    We need more trash receptacles for trash, and also more recycling receptacles. We could encourage more people to recycle and educate them about their actual carbon footprint. It starts from school age, i see grownups and kids alike littering when walking home from school. Mostly, Mcdonald’s cups etc. What about Dunkin Donuts still using styrofoam? Maybe businesses and corporations should be taxed instead that do nothing to curb the problem.

  6. We are against any bag tax. We are disabled senor citizens. Plastic bags help us.
    Why do we need to do this now? We are not Europe, Asia, the Middle East, or Russia. Doing this now is not helping. Let the rest of the world catch up on proper trash handling, FIRST!

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