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A GOP-Led Bill To Ban Plastic Bag Taxes Is In The Works

Elaine Thompson

As the 2016 legislative session gets down to the wire in Pennsylvania, lawmakers are rushing bills large and small.

One of the measures that made it through the House Consumer Affairs Committee on Monday would make it illegal to tax plastic shopping bags in Pennsylvania.

The measure will likely face pushback from Democrats.

Bucks County Republican Frank Farry is sponsoring the bill and argues that bag taxes—which have become more popular in recent years—could compromise jobs.

“There are more than 1,500 jobs in 14 [plastic bag manufacturing] facilities in the commonwealth," he said. "That manufacturing industry generates $346 million in Pennsylvania’s economy."

Farry also argued that bag taxes in other states and cities haven’t cut down significantly on waste.

That’s a contentious claim. Democratic Senator Daylin Leach, of Delaware County, sponsored a 2-cent bag tax bill in 2013. It didn’t pass, but he said his own research showed the tax would have been effective.

“Whenever there’s environmental legislation there’s always—you know, I mean remember all the studies that said smoking’s good for you? They can always find studies,” he said. “But the point is that to the extent that we can reduce these bags, it’s just common sense.”

California, Hawaii and Washington D.C. currently have some form of plastic bag ban in effect, and D.C. also has a tax on disposable bags. Several cities have taxes and bans as well, including New York City; Boulder, Colo.; Brownsville, Texas and several others.

Three states have passed the sort of preemptive, anti-tax law that Farry is sponsoring: Arizona, Idaho and Missouri.

Farry said if his bill fails to clear both chambers in the limited time left this session, he’ll reintroduce it.

Leach is vowing to reintroduce his own bag tax bill next session as well.