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Galveston wants a bag ban

Good luck.

Reacting to a groundswell of concern about the effect of plastic bags on the environment, Galveston is on the forefront of a statewide controversy over cities’ ability to ban plastic bags that are killing turtles, birds and fouling beaches.

A proposed ordinance with unanimous City Council support and strong community backing faces fierce opposition from outside forces, including conservative think tanks and plastic bag manufacturers who have already sent threatening letters.

[…]

Not all businesses support the ban, but it has the backing of the influential Galveston Hotel and Lodging Association. “As business operators we typically don’t like this type of business regulation,” said Steve Cunningham, association president and manager of the Hotel Galvez. “But being on the Gulf, this one is necessary because of the damage to the wildlife and the environment.”

City Attorney Don Glywasky drafted the Galveston ordinance to avoid the legal pitfalls encountered by cities such as Laredo. The Laredo bag ban was challenged under the 1993 Solid Waste Disposal law that bars local governments from adopting regulations to “prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law.”

Glywasky believes Galveston is unique. “I don’t really see that this is a solid waste management issue,” he said. “If we can cut down on some of the plastic bags that go into the marine environment, that is not something for the purpose of solid waste, it is for the protection of the marine environment on which we depend.”

That argument drew no sympathy from an influential conservative organization, the Texas Public Policy Foundation. James Quintero, director of the foundation’s Center for Local Governance and Think Local Liberty, said Galveston’s proposed ordinance conflicts with state law.

“Our position would be that Galveston’s ordinance, no matter what the stated reason would be, is still prohibiting containers,” said Bryan Mathew, policy analyst for Texas Public Policy Foundation. “In our view, a lot of local governments have been attempting to regulate out of bounds by hiding under the term of local control.”

Mathew called anything that smacks of what Gov. Greg Abbott lamented were attempts to make Texas more like California “out of bounds.”

“Texas is being California-ized and you may not even be noticing it,” Abbott said last year during remarks at a Public Policy Foundation gathering, where he warned of “a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that is eroding the Texas model.”

That erosion would include anything that hinders “people from being able to sell and buy with minimal government regulation and a low tax burden,” Mathew said.

Mathew saw no contradiction with the traditional conservative support for local control, arguing that local control refers to legislatures, not local governments.

“Utter hogwash,” said Zach Trahan, spokesman for Texas Campaign for the Environment. “They made it up this last year to justify their abandonment of local control.”

Yeah, let’s be clear that the “conservative” principle at work here is “because we said so”. Local control is great up to the point where localities do things that displeases authoritarians like Greg Abbott and the TPPF, thus requiring they be brought to heel. I think Galveston has perfectly good reasons for wanting to regulate plastic bags, but the court ruling against Laredo’s bag ordinance does not bode well for its future.

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8 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    It isn’t authoritarian for state government to stop local government from infringing on the rights of its citizens. Was it authoritarian for the federal government to fight Jim Crow laws?

    “First they came for the plastic bags, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a supporter of plastic bags…..”

    The way to address the problem of trash fouling our waters is to ramp up enforcement against people who litter and illegally dump. You know how Splendora has a well earned reputation as a speed trap town, where speeding is zealously enforced? Galveston could solve this problem by zealously enforcing the litter laws. Word would quickly get out that Galveston does not tolerate littering and the people actually responsible for the problem would be faced with a choice…..stop littering, or stop going to Galveston. Either way, problem solved.

    How far would this proposed bag ban go? Would people stopped for traffic violations be searched to see if they were carrying the now illegal plastic bags?

    I also find Abbott’s statement humorous:

    “Texas is being California-ized and you may not even be noticing it,” Abbott said last year during remarks at a Public Policy Foundation gathering, where he warned of “a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that is eroding the Texas model.”

    Um, hello? That perfectly describes the liquor laws in Texas. Dry, damp, wet, hybrid damp? This is local government restricting the rights of its citizens. Why isn’t Abbott concerned about this infringement on the rights of many in small town Texas? Beer. wine and liquor can be outlawed, no problem, but not plastic bags?

    Liberals have every right to point out the hypocrisy of Abbott’s mixed positions. Another example of hypocrisy is refusing to allow Tesla to sell cars here without a genuine, certified, inspected, detected Texas auto dealer to be the middleman. So, banning bags is bad, but banning cars from being sold is OK? GMAB.

    This ought to be the argument Galveston makes to support its proposed bag ban.

  2. Flypusher says:

    Maybe there needs to be a deposit charge added on to these plastic bags. Give people more incentive to turn then back in. You can also offer minor discounts to people using the reusable bags.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    A deposit doesn’t seem like a horrible solution to the problem, however, I think it would be a nightmare for the retailers to determine which returned bags they will redeem for cash, and which ones were not sold by them, and thus, they will not redeem.

    And let’s take a store, say HEB. What’s to prevent me from taking my HEB bags obtained in Houston and selling them to the HEB in Galveston? This will require a lot of labor for the stores to check over each bag, count them, and determine which ones they will redeem and which ones they will not redeem. The retailers eat that labor cost.

  4. Flypusher says:

    “And let’s take a store, say HEB. What’s to prevent me from taking my HEB bags obtained in Houston and selling them to the HEB in Galveston? ”

    What does it gain you to go to Galveston to do that? People are going to be taking the bags back to their local store because that’s the most convenient.

    ‘This will require a lot of labor for the stores to check over each bag, count them, and determine which ones they will redeem and which ones they will not redeem. The retailers eat that labor cost.”

    Seriously? What check would they have to do, other than confirm that it’s an HEB bag? How difficult is that? It’s not like they are going to use them again, because that would be a health code issue. They’d go to be recycled. Many of the stores already already take back plastic bags for recycling. You are making a mountain out of a molehill.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    @Fly:

    In the scenario presented by Kuff, Galveston is the city desiring to ban the bags. You have suggested an alternative scenario where instead of outright bannings, a (presumably mandatory) deposit system be placed on each bag sold in Galveston. What is that number? $ .05? $ .10? Let’s say it’s a $ .10 deposit per bag. That means I can get my bags at no extra charge in Houston, La Marque, Texas City, or any nearby town where there is no deposit and redeem them for a dime a piece in Galveston, each time I visit there. That sounds like beer money once a month to me, selling bags I didn’t pay extra for to the Galveston HEB, and who pays to buy back bags they didn’t even sell? The Galveston HEB.

    How about a sole proprietor in Galveston with non branded bags? I keep all my bags acquired in other, non deposit areas, and walk into any Galveston retailer and demand cash, for bags they did not sell. Isn’t that a hardship on those sole proprietors?

    I like your idea better than an outright ban, but there are kinks to be worked out, especially when some areas participate in this and others don’t.

  6. Jen says:

    The TPPF has labelled themselves the Texas Public Policy Foundation. That is of course purest baloney, just like Bill’s statement about nothing authoritarian about state control of local affairs. Let’s call the TPPF what it is, the TEA PARTY Policy Foundation. or the Texas Purchased Policy Foundation.
    P.S. bag bans work. Many places that don’t have corrupt politicians have them. No problem.

  7. Flypusher says:

    “In the scenario presented by Kuff, Galveston is the city desiring to ban the bags. You have suggested an alternative scenario where instead of outright bannings, a (presumably mandatory) deposit system be placed on each bag sold in Galveston. What is that number? $ .05? $ .10? Let’s say it’s a $ .10 deposit per bag. That means I can get my bags at no extra charge in Houston, La Marque, Texas City, or any nearby town where there is no deposit and redeem them for a dime a piece in Galveston, each time I visit there. That sounds like beer money once a month to me, selling bags I didn’t pay extra for to the Galveston HEB, and who pays to buy back bags they didn’t even sell? The Galveston HEB.”

    I was proposing this as a policy enacted by the businesses. If HEB decided to do a plastic bag deposit, it would apply across the whole chain, not just stores in Galveston.

    Whole Foods has a variation in that they have a 10 cent charge if you use their bags, but they take that off if you bring your own.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    @Fly:

    That voluntary, proposal you suggest could work, but it would require most, if not all, businesses to participate. Aldi’s does something similar. Their shoppers are trained to bring their own bags.

    @Jen:

    Let’s say Galveston passes a bathroom bill like HB 2 in N. Carolina. Now let’s say Texas passes a law that overrides that and forces Galveston to allow anyone to use any bathroom or shower they want to. Texas would be supporting the freedom of people in Galveston. Is that authoritarian?