From The Brownsville Herald
A bill introduced by a North Texas lawmaker that would nullify plastic bag bans across the state is getting bad reviews from local residents who worked to get bag restrictions in Brownsville and South Padre Island.
Area residents say they have already begun to hand out fliers with information on the proposed bill and are encouraging others to contact their legislators and let them know they are against the bill.“This should be left up to the municipalities and the cities to deal with their own litter issues,” said Rob Nixon, chairman of the South Texas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation in Laguna Vista. “There’s a longstanding Texas tradition to have locals deal with it.”
South Padre Island enacted its plastic bag ordinance more than two years ago and residents living there are seeing a cleaner area, Nixon said.
“Our goal in this area is to have all the towns and cities in the Lower Laguna Madre area reduce what I call the new Texas tumbleweeds from hitting our beaches and blowing into the bay,” Nixon said.
House Bill 2416, known as “The Shopping Bag Freedom Act,” states local governments could not enforce plastic bag bans already in existence and would allow businesses to provide customers with any type of container for their merchandise.
“This act (bag bans) is just the latest example of government elites trying to step between the business and consumer in an attempt to push forward a misguided nanny-state agenda,” said state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, who authored the bill.
Springer states there are also health concerns regarding the use of reusable bags. He said a study by Home Food Safety Program found that only 15 percent of Americans wash their reusable bags, which is a problem that has lead to spikes in E. coli poisoning in cities such as San Francisco and Washington D.C.
Nixon said legislators don’t have a problem with cities and counties banning the sale of alcohol, but with plastic bag bans being enacted, big companies are having a problem with it and “are exercising their legal muscle. They are basically looking at anything to try and stop these plastic bag bans.”
The city of Brownsville enacted its plastic bag restrictions in 2011, prohibiting businesses from handing out plastic bags to their customers unless they pay a $1 environmental fee. The city allows plastic bags when customers pay a $1 environmental assessment fee. The only exemption for that fee pertains to food safety when retailers may provide plastic bags to prevent contamination from certain foods such as meats.
Rose Timmer, executive officer of Healthy Communities Brownsville, spearheaded the restrictions. She does not believe Springer’s bill is the right thing to do for communities.
“I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s fair, but he his entitled to whatever he wants to do,” Timmer said.
Timmer said she “gave up” more than a year of her life to get the program going and that Healthy Communities has had much success with it. She said other cities have followed Brownsville’s lead in restricting plastic bags, not only in Texas but in other states as well.
“I’m not happy about (the bill),” Timmer said. “I sure hope it doesn’t happen.”
In the first 11 months of the plastic bag restrictions in Brownsville, the city collected about $250,000 from stores where customers chose to purchase the bags rather than use reusable bags. The money collected is being used for other environmental projects such as Make A Difference projects.
A hearing on Springer’s bill is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday before the House Urban Affairs Committee in Austin.