The Howard County Bag Tax…yep…one of my favorites subjects to write about on this blog. There was a meeting earlier this month and a little information was shared about it (publicly)…and wow did it hit me the wrong way. Here is the post I saw: (click image below to view post)
- The Howard County Council Chair (Christiana Rigby) and the Howard County Council Vice Chair (Opel Jones) had a meeting with special interest groups on this topic. These groups have a very specific agenda (implement a punitive tax on shoppers here in Howard County in order to reduce the number of plastic bags leaving stores).
- The “listening and sharing thoughts on crafting a bill”…holy crap…if this does not scare you I don’t know what will. No discussions with the public yet…no meetings…no social media posts…but meeting with special interest groups and beginning to discuss crafting a bill. This is how it happened with our delegation (what I have been told by a member of a special interest group) and how the bill was crafted and decided upon with little discussion with the public here in Howard County (one public meeting). Are we heading down that same road with our County Council? Someone should ask…so I am.
I reached out to Howard County Council Members Rigby and Jones (and their staff) about this meeting with the special interest group..here is what I received:
Christiana Rigby (District 3):
No response from the elected member or any of her staff from my email. This is MY council member…and I did not get an answer to my question via email. I am super disappointed.
“We echo Councilman Jones’ statement. We met with members of the community, Less Plastic Please, Sierra Club, Howard County Conservancy, and several state legislators to discuss potential plastic bag fee legislation. As you may know, we often meet with advocates on certain topics before legislation is filed, largely to ensure that we are passing good policy.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with opponents of a fee and discuss their positions and ideas about an alternative. We have not yet received any meeting requests to regarding opposition to a fee, but would be happy to hold a meeting on that subject.
Anyone opposed to a plastic bag fee bill is encouraged to email the Council at CouncilMail@howardcountymd.gov or testify against it in person if it is introduced. If such a bill is introduced, residents can sign up to testify about it at https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/otestimony/. Thank you for your interest in this topic!”
District Aide, District 3
Opel Jones (District 2):
Thank you for the email.
Yes, we met with Less Plastic Please and members from other constituency groups regarding the enabling bill from our state delegation and a potential county bill. We would also meet with anyone (telephonically or in-person) who wishes to (or not to) support this effort, thus we are not meeting only with special interest groups and no one else. Lastly, it’s a potential “fee”, not a potential tax.
If you (or others) are still concerned, please feel free to set up a meeting with our office.
I appreciate Opel Jones responding to my email. I may try and set something up with him in the future on this topic. One note…no matter what you call this (fee or tax)…it is money we will pay the local government (if a bag fee/tax is passed) for a product a store gives us at checkout…and the local government has an opportunity to make that not happen instead of taking our money for accepting that product (a plastic bag). I will continue to ask…is this about money or really reducing plastic bags in our community.
I also reached out to staff members for Howard County Executive Calvin Ball just to see if he is also having meeting with special interest groups on this topic…here is what I got back:
To date, the County Executive has not had meetings with any groups regarding this topic.
The bill that passed in Annapolis (but was never signed by the Governor…so it passed by default) does not go into effect until October 2019…so you gotta wonder…when will the Howard County Council will take it up…and how much interaction residents in this county will get on this topic….or will they treat it as just another bill with one public meeting on one evening…that will be full of the special interest group followers testifying in favor of a punitive tax on the shoppers here in Howard County.
Want more REAL information about the bag tax and the data from Montgomery County and Washington DC…the stuff you will not hear in the public testimony from special interest groups…here are articles you might want to read:
I promise to never let up on this topic…because we should not let this issue play out behind closed doors and behind the scenes…we should not have a tax this significant hit us without significant public interaction in advance.
Will the county council take the words of our County Executive (Calvin Ball)…when he stated the following in regards to going plastic bag free with recycling: “Making Howard County the most environmentally friendly jurisdiction in the state and region is a goal of my administration…” or will they decide to go do down another path…and take the big money option and maybe even pay stores 20% of the fee/tax to get their support.
I will be watching.
Want to oppose a future bag tax…want to support a future bag tax…or just want to ask for public meeting on the topic…here are the email address of all five council members…reach out to them and make your voice heard before it is to late: