City councilors in Baltimore have passed a bill to eliminate plastic bags, a measure that would make it the first major East Coast city to enact such a ban. However, the controversial bill continues to be hotly debated, as the city’s mayor has already vowed to veto the bill. “I can’t sign legislation that I think sends the wrong message to our citizens and to businesses,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, as reported by The Baltimore Sun.
The bill originally proposed a five-cent charge for plastic bag use in the city. Additional higher taxes were proposed before the city council settled on a ban because of anti-tax sentiment displayed by voters. “Last week’s election around the country showed us two things: People care about progressive issues and they don't want to pay any more taxes or fees,” said City Councilman Jim Kraft.
Meanwhile, the mayor said that the changes were not properly vetted during the bill process. “I don’t care what they talked about during the hearing,” said Rawlings-Blake. “They did not propose the changes during that process. They did not allow a public process after the change was proposed.”
The council had originally offered the measure as a way to eliminate litter, particularly bags that accumulate in the Chesapeake Bay. Opponents fear the ban will drive businesses away from the city. Of the council’s 14 members, 11 voted to pass the bill, one opposed it and two abstained. “This process has definitely cheated the public of the opportunity to vet the issue. We are not allowed to switch and bate,” said Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, who opposes the ban. Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said city residents would be able to adjust to the measure. “We can live without plastic bags,” she said.
The council’s bill has numerous exceptions, allowing plastic bag use for fish, meats, poultry, produce, restaurant carry-out, ice and pharmacy drugs.