On Saturday, March 23, the Economic Matters Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates voted down a measure that would have enabled counties to establish a 5-cent fee on disposable bags. The vote, 14-9 on a motion for an unfavorable report, effectively ended the possibility of passing a statewide bag law in 2013.
The Community Cleanup and Greening Act (HB 1086) originally proposed to enact the fee statewide, for the purpose of encouraging shoppers to replace disposable plastic and paper bags with reusable bags, reducing litter and improving county recycling streams. The Environmental Matters Committee passed the amended bill on Friday, March 22, by a vote of 17-4.
The bill was sponsored by Delegates Mary Washington (D-District 43, Baltimore City) and Michael Summers (D-District 47, Prince George’s County), with 32 additional cosponsors. A companion bill in the Senate was sponsored by Senators Jamie Raskin (D-District 20, Montgomery County) and Brian Frosh (D-District 16, Montgomery County).
“We are very disappointed in the outcome,” said Julie Lawson, Director of the Trash Free Maryland Alliance. “Our team, from grassroots activists to the bill’s sponsors, ran an effective campaign and achieved a lot of momentum. We were very close to passing this bill and giving counties a tool they need to reduce pollution.”
The committee vote came a day after a dramatic debate over the transportation fund on the House floor. Following the controversy, delegates who had previously expressed support for the bill flipped their positions.
“We are very grateful to Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh, Chairman Dereck Davis, and Speaker Mike Busch for their support in getting the bill so far,” added Lawson. “Trash Free Maryland looks forward to continuing to work with them on ways to clean up Maryland’s neighborhoods and waterways.”
The Trash Free Maryland Alliance is a network of 60 organizations, businesses, and activists committed to reducing litter in Maryland, by pursuing policies at the state and local level.