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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Senate Budget Includes Ban On Plastic Bag Fees In Ohio Communities

[Karen Kasler]

A familiar idea is among the proposals added to the state budget proposal by Ohio Senate: a ban on municipalities charging fees for plastic bags or other containers.

Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester) said provision isn’t really about plastic bags, it’s about limiting the number of entities that can impose taxes on businesses and residents.

“What it’s really about is commerce, uniformity, businesses want to know they have predictability, they want to know what the rules are,” Lang said. “And as we change the rules, that’s a negative impact. So this will not reduce them, but it will stop us from increasing them.”

Critics have said this would violate communities’ home rule authority, and Gov. Mike DeWine said, when a ban on plastic bag bans was considered in 2019, that it “would be a mistake” and that the state “should allow local communities to do what they think is best.”

But Lang said he has a legal opinion that this proposal doesn’t conflict with home rule and that taxes and tax policy are costing the statebusinesses and residents.

Ohio has seen a decline in population growth to other states, which led the U.S. Census Bureau to announce earlier this year that the state would have one less member of Congress for the next decade – 15, down from 16.

Lang notes the state had 24 representatives in the U.S. House half a century ago.

“No other state is getting their asses kicked as bad on a percentage basis than Ohio. And it’s our policies that we put in place that are causing it,” Lang said.

A law barring regulations on plastic bags passed during the pandemic, but that ban expires in January 2022.

Several Ohio communities have passed plastic bag bans, including Cuyahoga County and Bexley, near Columbus. The pandemic forced reconsideration of many restrictions on plastic bags as customers were asked not to bring in reusable bags.

Cuyahoga County’s bag ban, passed in 2019, was set to go into effect in July 2020, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit, it was put on hold until January 2021, so retailers wouldn’t have more chaos amid the pandemic. Then the one-year, statewide ban on bans was passed in Columbus.

At the time, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Sunny Simon, who sponsored the county’s legislation, called it “a step back” for environmental efforts.

“I’m just disappointed but not surprised that the Statehouse and Senate would take advantage of the COVID crisis to actually serve the needs of the plastic industry,” Simon said last year.

The concerns about the proliferation of plastic and the harm it’s doing to the environment have been growing even through the pandemic. But Lang said that’s a “false narrative.”

“If we eliminate all the pollution that America has, not just plastic bags, all of it, it’s only a fraction of a small percentage of the pollution that’s out there in the world,” Lang said. “If we’re not going to do anything with India, with China, with the Far East, with Asia, we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can have an impact.”

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.