Alexandria Democrat battles disposable shopping bags
If reporters were grocery items, Del. Adam P. Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria, would have had few enough at his press conference to go through the Express Lane.
But that did not stop him making an impassioned case Thursday for adding Virginia to the growing international movement to eliminate or tax disposable shopping bags.
Ebbin's bill, HB1115, would impose a nickel fee on every plastic or paper bag provided to shoppers at grocery, convenience and drug stores in the commonwealth.
Twenty-four nations now ban plastic carryout bags entirely. Among the local jurisdictions that have taken action is the District, whose new nickel fee on disposable bags has already cut bag consumption at some retailers by 50 percent since taking effect Jan. 1.
Of course, the District's new bag fee has also created new and sometimes entertaining challenges for some shoppers, such as juggling groceries or running the parking lot dash for a reusable tote.
Ebbin acknowledged that people sometimes forget, then he whipped out his own reusable bag, a constant pocket-sized companion that was bunched up in its own sack like a tiny sleeping bag.
"It may be a bit wrinkled, but it will hold your groceries," Ebbin said.
Unlike a similiar measure that failed last year, Ebbin's bill allows as much as two cents charged for each bag to be retained by retailers to cover the costs of the new law. The rest would be used to clean Virginia's waterways by contributing to the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund. The bill would also impose fines of as much as $1,000 on retailers that failed to comply.
Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, a fellow Democrat from Richmond who had written a similar bill, showed up at the press conference in support of Ebbin's.
"They get in our waterways, they get into our ocean, and they get into our crops," Morrissey said.
Morrissey's bill would have banned non-reusable grocery bags. A House subcommittee, however, voted to effectively eliminate Morrissey's bill, HB521, instead.
Ebbins' bill will be taken up at a House Finance subcommittee meeting Tuesday.
-- Fredrick Kunkle
February 5, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories: Fredrick Kunkle , General Assembly , General Assembly 2010
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