While many in this county have been hyper focused on the redistricting process happening with the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS)…our County Council has brought forward a new fee/tax that most people are not focused on…a new punitive fee/tax on shoppers that accept plastic bags at checkout from stores.

CB64-2019 was introduced while the HCPSS redistricting process was happening. The one and only public comment session happened during the final work session on the HCPSS redistricting (November 18th). The one work session that has happened since this bill was introduced (November 22nd)…our County Council members did not even discuss this bill or the fact that the number of bags in other jurisdictions does not decrease after implementation of this punitive TAX/FEE on shoppers.

This vote on this bill is currently planned for December 2nd. If that happens…and it passes (as expected)…and then our County Executive signs it (no clue what he will do at this point)…we will all be charged 5 cents for every bag we accept from stores next year (July 1, 2020). Not just some stores (as some seem to think)…but EVERY store. You go to the grocery store…yep you get taxed for taking a product they give you a checkout…but not just grocery stores…go to the mall you get taxed for taking a plastic bag to carry our your gifts for family members…go to DSW to purchase shoes for your kids and take a plastic bag and you get taxed…go into Exxon and purchase a few items and you get taxed…this council does not want to stop those stores from providing the product…they want to PUNISH you for accepting the product (a plastic bag a checkout).

Let me be very clear what this bill does not do:

  • This bill does nothing to stop stores from providing plastic bags at checkout (the actual cause of the problem)
  • This bill makes a lot of money for the county
  • This bill provides money to the stores giving you plastic bags at checkout (1 penny for every 2 bags they give you…here comes stores double bagging more and more of your products so that they maximize revenue)
  • There is no data from other local jurisdictions that states that after implementation that the number of bags taxed decreases in a significant way (look at the data from DC and Montgomery County for actual facts on this topic)

It very much seems like our County Council Members have been influenced by special interest groups and that those special interest groups are running this show on this topic. Those special interest groups will tell you how much the number of plastic bags will be reduced…while giving you no actual hard data on that fact. They will reference “survey” data…they will reference the amount of bags no longer in the various local rivers being cleaned…but they NEVER reference the actual real data from DC or MoCo leaving stores year in and year out after implementation of this tax…NEVER!!!

Plus this council is not willing to fight the businesses that give plastic bags out at checkout to make them stop in order to help the local environment…maybe because those same businesses give donations to candidates that run for office? One has to ask that question as this moves forward.

I reached out to all 5 Howard County Council members and asked why this topic was not discussed at the recent work session (on November 22nd)…here is what I received back:

Howard County Council Member Rigby:

Thank you for reaching out. Regarding the work session agenda, I have included some information on the Council’s standard practice below:

Legislation is put on the Council Work Sessions at the request of Councilmembers. There were several complex pieces of legislation to be discussed at the Work Session, and the bills chosen were ones that would benefit from group discussion, were requested by multiple Councilmembers, and fit within the Work Session’s time constraints. This is standard practice for legislation that the County Council is considering.

Over 30 Howard County residents signed up to testify on CB64-2019 at the Legislative Public Hearing on November 18th, and the Council has received input from hundreds of residents in support of this legislation via email over the last several months. As the Council approaches its Legislative Session on December 2nd, Howard County residents have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feedback on this bill with the County Council by emailing CouncilMail@howardcountymd.gov.

Howard County Council Member Yungmann:

We continue to have what I believe to be an excessive number of bills each month, many of which are complicated and need more work session time than others.  A work session is our only opportunity to have a full group discussion with subject-matter experts, especially when our public hearings are too full for questions and robust discussion.  This month was particularly difficult due to the holiday-related compressed deadlines and limited scheduling options.  Frankly, one work session was not enough to thoroughly discuss a very complicated Forest Conservation bill (that should be tabled) and the others that did make the agenda.  While I’m frustrated that we keep doing this to ourselves and our constituents, I agree that the right bills were on the agenda given the limitations.

At this point I expect this bill to pass (I hope I am wrong…but I have watched this stuff enough over the years to believe this is going forward…and just read the comments above). The County Executive is our last hope and not sure what he will do (but will not be surprised if/when he signs this bill). Our CE has stated publicly “Making Howard County the most environmentally friendly jurisdiction in the state and region is a goal of my administration…”. The CE has made great strides in that direction with various environmental initiatives over the last year…the question with this bill is does he really mean it or is the idea of additional revenue to the county more enticing to our current CE? I have GREAT respect for our CE and hope he cares more about the environment than he does money into the county budget.

When the 2022 elections come around…and after a couple of years of people feeling like this is a bad punitive tax on shoppers that does very little to stop plastic bags leaving stores (if this goes forward)…I expect that there may be a number of candidates that will run on this issue. I look forward to that happening…because I will be on the repeal the BAG TAX side of this issue. I am rarely a one issue person…but this one is important to me…because all of the data says it does not work…and is more about the money than it is about reducing the number of plastic bags leaving stores…and that is just wrong.

I have been writing about this issue for more than a year now trying to let my readers know that this punitive tax is coming.

You will be told by the special interest groups and even politicians that support this legislation that it is a first step on the way towards a ban…but you should be told the truth on that statement…has DC or MoCo changed from a tax/fee to a ban since implementation? NO!!!! They get mad revenue from this punitive tax/fee on shoppers and they will never vote to give up that revenue.

If you oppose this bill…write to the Howard County Council TODAY and let them know before it is to late:

councilmail@howardcountymd.gov
ewalsh@howardcountymd.gov
ojones@howardcountymd.gov
crigby@howardcountymd.gov
djung@howardcountymd.gov
dyungmann@howardcountymd.gov

cbball@howardcountymd.gov

I sent in the following email on this topic to the County Council:

I am writing in opposition of CB64-2019.

Here are some things the Howard County Council probably has not heard during the bag fee / bag tax discussions:

  • This is a punitive fee on shoppers while doing nothing to prevent the stores from providing plastic bags at checkout.
  • Stores have no incentive to stop providing plastic bags at checkout…if anything the 1 cent for every 10 bags (I meant to say 1 cent for every 2 bags) they provide is an incentive for them to provide more plastic bags at checkout (watch the double bagging practices coming soon to a store near you in Howard County. I do not know for a fact this will happen…just ranting a bit here).
  • The fact that Baltimore City Council just passed a ban and Westminster, Chestertown and Takoma Park all have previously passed bans of plastic bags…are we following the goal of our County Executive by “Making Howard County the most environmentally friendly jurisdiction in the state and region is a goal of my administration…”? I think not.
  • And finally…after implementation, will the number of bags leaving stores significantly reduce? Let’s look at data from Montgomery County:

In 2013 (the first full year of the fee) the number of bags “Taxed” was 60,421,676.

In 2018 the number of bags “Taxed” was 64,149,805.

Learn more:  https://data.montgomerycountymd.gov/Finance-Tax-Property/Number-of-Plastic-Bags-Taxed-Annually/chgm-72wc

So far in 2019 (through October) the number of bags taxed is 55,896,833 (so on pace for over 61,000,000 bags taxed for the year).

Someone please show me the deep decrease in the number of bags being taxed and leaving stores in that jurisdiction after implementation of this fee? If this really worked we should see that “60 million bags” leaving stores drop significantly (say even drop to “50 million bags”) by adding this punitive fee on shoppers for not bringing reusable bags with them to stores after implementation of the fee. That data does not exist.

I remain fully against this legislation. I would fully support a plastic bag ban similar to what other jurisdictions have put in place. A ban (even with exemptions similar to what Westminster passed) would accomplish the overall goal…significantly less plastic bags leaving stores and coming into our jurisdiction…is that not what this is all about? Maybe it is about something else all together.

Because of HCPSS redistricting most people in the county do not know this is happening right now or that it may be decided upon soon.

I was also very disappointed that this topic was not even discussed at the most recent Howard County Council Work Session on November 22nd. No discussion at all on the data from other jurisdictions that have imposed this fee. The one and only input public session on this topic happened on November 18th when most of the county was watching the happenings of the HCPSS redistricting process at the final work session and preliminary decision meeting.

It is disappointing that this important legislation may be decided upon with such little conversation or discussion with residents in this county.

My hope it that all of these facts are discussed before making a final decision on this topic.

Thank you,

6 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with you. It is too late to jump on the fee bandwagon. It doesn’t work. We are moving toward bans. NY State, the whole state, has banned bags starting in the new year. Many retailers are going to have to figure out how to move forward without plastic bags anyway for some states and counties. We are better Off jumping on that initiative to actual make a difference rather than make money. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  2. Copying my reply to another thread.

    Plastic bags have less carbon footprint than reusable bags.

    The plastic bags made are recycable and if they are LDPE, low density polyethelene, a reusable cotton bag would need to be reused THOUSANDS of times to have the same footprint. Tests have shown that reusable bags will degrade before reaching those numbers. Furthermore, plastic bags are recycable unlike a lot of the reusable bags being used.

    The bill is obviously short-sided and should just require LDPE bags. This is just a money grab so Calvin Ball can throw more swank parties with tax payer money every year.

    https://earther.gizmodo.com/are-reusable-bags-really-better-for-the-planet-1826567287

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