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:
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.
Howard County Council – 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.