Senator Boucher Says “No” To Proposed Legislation That Would Stop Grass-Roots Efforts To Ban Plastic Bags

April 28, 2009

Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) said she will continue to fight proposed legislation that would prevent municipalities from banning the local use of paper and plastic shopping bags, while at the same time taxing those who choose to use disposable bags.

“Passing this legislation, House Bill 5215, An Act Promoting Reusable Shopping Bags, would move the state backwards. Westport already has a ban on plastic bags, and the four members of the Westport Representative Town Meeting who led the fight for this local ban received the 2009 EPA Environmental Merit Award. Yet, we are seriously considering legislation that would prevent all other towns from doing the same, and calling it a good thing for the environment,” said Senator Boucher, adding that the proposed legislation would not affect the existing Westport ordinance banning plastic bags.

The proposed legislation has been approved by the General Assembly’s Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee by a narrow margin of 28-22, and is now subject to further legislative action. Before voting against the bill as a member of the committee, Senator Boucher tried, unsuccessfully, to amend it to restore the right of local communities to impose their own bans on plastic and paper bags.

In addition to forbidding towns to regulate the local use of plastic and paper bags beginning in October, the proposed legislation requires retailers, other than restaurants, to charge shoppers five cents per disposable bag beginning January 1, 2010. A portion of the proceeds would be used for one-time grants to municipalities to promote recycling programs.

“Is this bill intended to promote green behavior, or is it just another way for the state to raise money? Charging five cents for each paper and plastic bag is not enough to change individual behavior, but it would certainly burden retailers with expensive oversight and administrative costs, infringe on home rule and impose a regressive tax that could really hurt people who are already struggling to pay for food,” said Senator Boucher.

Senator Boucher said she knows of several other communities that have expressed an interest in imposing an outright ban on disposable shopping bags, including Ridgefield, Fairfield, Wilton, Darien, East Haddam and Windham.

“People all across our state understand the issue, and are willing to do their part to protect the environment by giving up the convenience of plastic and paper shopping bags. That is why so many retailers, without any prodding from the state, already make reusable shopping bags available to their customers. And, that is why there is an active grass-roots efforts in so many towns to follow Westport’s good example and impose their own bans on disposable shopping bags,” said Senator Boucher.

“This proposed legislation is misguided at best, and potentially very harmful. I will do everything I can to convince my colleagues in the General Assembly to defeat it,” added Senator Boucher.