Plastic bag tax is killed for the final time

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Prince George's County Councilwoman Mary Lehman

Remember the state law County Executive Rushern Baker was pushing that would give the county authority to implement a bag tax? Well it is now dead for the final time.

Yesterday the House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee, killed the bill by failing to approve it with a majority vote.

The bill faced an uphill battle all session as members of the Prince George’s delegation faced intense lobbying from the plastic bag industry, the US Black Chamber of Commerce, and citizens who say they are tired of being nickel and dime to death. That however didn’t stop county leaders like Baker, Councilwoman Mary Lehman and leaders from the Anacostia Watershed from fighting hard for passage.

The legislation itself would not had put a plastic bag fee in place in the county, but instead allow the Prince George’s County Council to make the final decision. Under current law the council, unlike the Montgomery County Council, lacks the power to pass such a law. That argument however didn’t sway many citizens who all are still worried about other potential tax increases the legislature is considering.

When the idea for Prince George’s to join with Montgomery County and the District of Columbia with the bag tax was introduced the selling point was it would benefit environmental efforts for the Anacostia river. The tax would drive down the number of people using the bags that clutter the river and any money raised would be used only for environmental projects. That idea hit the fan when members of the DC Council raised the idea last year of raiding their fund to help balance the budget. Leaders in many poor communities said the law would disproportionately impact minority and poor communities the hardest.

After defeat of the bill was announced yesterday, advocates in support of a tax vowed to renew efforts again during next years session.

*- This story has been updated to correct a previous version that incorrectly stated Delegate Davis was chair of the Environmental Matters Committee.

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