The famous anti-littering campaign “Don’t Mess with Texas” may soon need to be changed to “Don’t Mess with Texafornia” as the City of Dallas will be ringing in the new year with a touch more of a California feel because of the environmentalist driven Carryout Bags Ordinance. It’s a quasi-plastic bag ban that goes into effect on January 1, 2015.
The Dallas City Council passed the eco-friendly ordinance on March 26. Breitbart Texas reported that City Council member Dwaine Caraway was hell bent on “bringing the ban to the table” with a resulting amount retailers would charge per bag environmental fees, of which the City of Dallas “would receive at least half of the collected fees.”
Before the vote, Ronnie Volkening, the President and CEO of the Austin-based Texas Retailers Association, told Breitbart Texas in the same article that a bag ban could be unfair to poor families.
He said, “We opposed the ban because we feel that it is regressive on families and lower income people. Under the ordinance, you’re sometimes forced to use reusable bags that you need to pay for instead of complimentary bags.”
In Austin, the ordinance states that most of its city’s businesses are prohibited from providing “single-use carry-out bags to its customers or any person or entity and shall display signage to educate their customers about their bag options,” also according to the Breitbart Texas article.
The Dallas ordinance does not ban plastic bags. Instead, it is intended to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags to carry goods from stores and other locations,” according to Green Dallas.
It accomplishes that with the art of a five-cent fee.
According to a December 16 press release issued by Caraway’s office, “Shoppers are encouraged to use reusable carryout bags in order to avoid the fee. The ordinance also provides exemptions for certain types of bags.”
Visual demonstrations of each type of bag will be presented at a December 17 press conference.
Green Dallas also noted that under the ordinance, businesses that provide single-use bags must register with the City annually. They are required to collect the five cent environmental fee for every single-use bag used by a customer.
Green Dallas also claims that the portion of the fees will be used to pay for enforcement of the ordinance and for public education efforts. Stores keep 10 percent of the five-cent fee to help offset administrative costs.
They insisted that the carryout bag ordinance outlines the City’s desire to protect the natural environment, the economy and the health of its residents, and the negative impact on the environment caused by improper disposal of single-use carryout bags.
In late February, Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton) sought an opinion from Attorney General Greg Abbott as to whether these city bans are in compliance with Texas health and safety laws.
Flynn’s letter stated: “At least nine cities in Texas have enacted bans on plastic bags and adopted fees on replacement bags in recent years.” Henoted that it “appears to be in contravention of state law.”
On August 29, Abbott rendered opinion GA-1078 that these bags may violate state law; however, the response was not crystal clear. It concluded that the bag bans appeared to violate a Texas Health and Safety Code provision that was added in 1993 to encourage recycling and help cities reducethe amount of waste heading to landfills, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
In his response, Abbott stated, “Neither a home-rule city nor a general-law city may adopt an ordinance that is inconsistent with the Texas Constitution or Texas statutes.”
The key points summarized were that “A court would likely conclude that a city ordinance prohibiting or restricting single-use plastic bags is prohibited by subsection 361.0961(a)(l) of the Health and Safety Code if the city adopted the ordinance for solid waste management purposes. Whether a specificcity’s single-use plastic bag ordinance was adopted for such purposes will require a factual inquiry that is beyond the scope of an attorney generalopinion.”
The summary continued, “A court would likely conclude that section 361.096l(a)(3) prohibits a city from adopting an ordinance that assesses a fee on the sale or use of a single-use plastic bag.
Dallas residents will feel a little closer to Kim Kardashian’s eco-friendly suburban Los Angeles derriere this January where the City of Calabasas strictly enforced thesingle use plastic bag ban back in 2011.
Earlier this year, California banned all plastic bags statewide and mandated a minimum 10-cent tax on all compostable paper bags, meaning people must pay a paper bag fee. This encourages the use of reusable bags to avoid these fees.
The rise of plastic bag bans and paper bag fees have created a whole reusable shopping bag market. These bags require upkeep, though.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.