Attempts to Ban Plastic Bags Over for MI

No community in Michigan can take away your access to plastic shopping bags any longer. While there are more than 150 communities scattered across the nation who have taken it upon themselves to either ban plastic bags from retail stores or begun charging fees to allow continued use, that is no longer an option in the Great Lakes State.

In fact, folks in Ann Arbor who had already authorized a dime-per-bag fee for anybody using plastic shopping bags with the intent of implementing that rule in April throughout Washtenaw County will have to ditch that plan — preempted by the new state-wide prohibition that disallows any such ordinance creation going forward.

The prohibition on plastic bag bans or fees by an Michigan municipality had been pushed Republicans and was backed by the Michigan chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. It was signed into law by Lt. Governor Brian Calley yesterday and goes into effect in 90-days, keeping local units of government from “regulating, prohibiting or adding fees to the use or sale” of such items.

Back in the spring of the year, Charlie Owen, who serves as State Director for the NFIB told a Senate committee that “Small businesses are already overwhelmed with state and federal regulatory requirements as well as already existing local rules.” He argued then, “Heaping yet another recordkeeping and compliance burden on them is not a wise economic development policy for local governments or the state.”

Owens’ testimony came in response to efforts by some cities and local governments in Michigan to pass a local ordinance that would have banned or regulated plastic bags, cups or other disposable packaging and containers within their jurisdiction. Proposed ordinances would have banned stores from giving plastic bags to customers and/or impose a fee for each plastic or paper bag they distributed. In response, Senator Jim Stamas was the one who introduced Senate Bill 853 to prohibit local governments from passing those kinds of laws.

In April’s testimony, Owens said, “While the intentions may be honorable, placing these requirements on citizens and businesses in a local area just encourages job providers to locate elsewhere or move out of that area when they have the opportunity.” He pointed out that, “Often these kind of local efforts begin with a lofty goal and end with a fee and regulation scheme that becomes just another way for local governments to tax residents and businesses and provide government jobs for those who would enforce the ordinance.

Owens had also testified that such a local approach to regulation which ends up varying from one local jurisdiction to the next creates an inefficient patchwork quilt of rules that is especially confusing to small business. He had urged the Senate Commerce Committee to support the Stamas bill, which ended up passing the legislature in the eleventh hour this week.


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