We all knew the bill related to the Howard County Plastic Bag Tax was coming soon…and it was “prefiled” yesterday as CB64-2019 (Introduced by: Opel Jones and Christiana Mercer Rigby). Here are some highlights of the bill:
AN ACT to require a specified fee on certain disposable bags; providing for the collection of the fee and the administration of the subtitle; specifying the duties of certain stores; creating a Disposable Plastics Reduction Fund; providing for the administration and uses of the Fund; providing for penalties for certain violations; requiring certain studies and reports; and generally relating to disposable bags in the County.
Definition of “Disposable Bag” is the following per “SECTION 13-1001 OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ARTICLE OF THE MARYLAND CODE”:
(2)(i) “Disposable bag” means a plastic bag provided by a store to a customer at the point of sale.
(ii) “Disposable bag” does not include:
1. a durable plastic bag with handles that is at least 2.25 mils thick and is designed and manufactured for multiple reuse;
2. a bag used to:
A. package bulk items, including fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy, or small hardware items;
B. contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, or fish, whether prepackaged or not;
C. contain or wrap flowers, potted plants, or other damp items;
D. contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods; or
E. contain a newspaper or dry cleaning;
3. a bag provided by a pharmacist to contain prescription drugs; or
4. plastic bags sold in packages containing multiple plastic bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or yard waste bags.
Fee / cost to shoppers:
A FEE OF 5 CENTS IS IMPOSED FOR EACH DISPOSABLE BAG THAT A STORE PROVIDES TO A CUSTOMER
How much money to local business get from this tax / fee?
TO COVER THE ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSE OF COLLECTING AND REMITTING THE FEE, THE STORE MAY RETAIN UP TO 10 % OF EACH 5 CENT FEE COLLECTED
So stores that GIVE you plastic bags at checkout (and already charge you for those bags in costs of their products) will now also get to keep 1 out of every 10 cents they collect on this tax / fee. This is now an additional revenue source for local businesses.
What will the money be used for locally?
THE OFFICE OF COMMUNITY SUSTAINABILITY AND THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE SHALL USE THE DISPOSABLE PLASTICS REDUCTION FUND:
(1) FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL PURPOSE, INCLUDING:
(I) THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A PROGRAM TO PROVIDE REUSABLE BAGS TO INDIVIDUALS IN THE COUNTY, PREDOMINANTLY TO VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS;
(II) MAKING GRANTS TO ENTITIES ENGAGED IN:
A. WATER QUALITY AND WATER POLLUTION EDUCATION;
B. ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS THAT SUPPORT SCHOOL CURRICULUM;
C. STREAM CLEAN UPS; OR
D. ANTI-LITTERING EDUCATION; AND
(III) ACTIVITIES TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE BENEFITS AND METHODS OF
REDUCING THE USE OF DISPOSABLE PLASTICS; AND
(2) TO IMPLEMENT, ADMINISTER, AND ENFORCE THIS SUBTITLE.
How often will we get information about the bag tax?
WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER THE END OF EACH FISCAL YEAR AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 22.1000 OF THIS CODE, THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE JOINTLY WITH THE OFFICE OF COMMUNITY SUSTAINABILITY SHALL SUBMIT A REPORT TO THE COUNTY COUNCIL AND THE COUNTY EXECUTIVE THAT INCLUDES:
(1) AN ANALYSIS OF THE FEES COLLECTED UNDER THIS SUBTITLE;
(2) THE COST TO THE COUNTY OF CARRYING OUT THIS SUBTITLE;
(3) AN EVALUATION OF THE COUNTY’S PROGRESS IN REDUCING THE USE OF DISPOSABLE BAGS AND OTHER DISPOSABLE PLASTICS;
(4) THE IMPACT ON AND THE RESPONSES OF STORES THAT ARE SUBJECT TO THIS SUBTITLE;
(5) RECOMMENDATIONS ON CHANGES TO THIS SUBTITLE OR ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES TO REDUCING THE USE OF DISPOSABLE PLASTICS.
Meaning that we will get an annual report…not the type of reporting that MoCo gives their residents on the money being collected by County Government and local stores (monthly data that you can access via their data website).
I have written MANY ARTICLES about this punitive tax / fee on shoppers in Howard County in the past on this blog. I think most everyone knows where I stand…I am 100% against this punitive tax / fee and 100% in favor of a ban with certain exemptions similar to what was passed for the city of Westminster.
This bill does not do the following: Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has recently 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…”. This bill does not stop bags from leaving the stores…it punishes shoppers for accepting those bags at checkout. It brings in funding to the County and to local businesses that provide those bags at checkout. This bill makes Howard County a follower in the state and region and not a leader in regards to reducing plastic bags.
I will have many more articles on this bill in the future. I am now 100% interested in what our County Executive thinks about this bill and it will be a topic I reach out on soon to his staff. I am also looking forward to hearing comments from the other three councilmembers on this topic. I will keep an eye on social media for their comments.
Stay tuned…I will stay on top of this as it moves forward.