Austin bag ban would be overturned by new proposal

A suburban Dallas lawmaker has proposed overturning bag bans like the one in Austin.

State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, filed legislation on Wednesday that would make any city rule that restricts businesses from distributing bags invalid.

“You’re restricting the flow of commerce,” said Rinaldi, whose district covers parts of Dallas, which passed an ordinance in 2014 that requires businesses to charge customers five cents for every single-use bag they require.

Rinaldi said there’s “no compelling environmental reason for prohibiting the single use bags.”

But environmental groups and others have said plastic bag bans are effective in keeping creeks and trees cleaner and keeping waste out of landfills.

At least 11 Texas cities have passed rules to minimize the distribution of bags.

“These communities have reduced litter, saved their local businesses money, and their constituents have been overwhelmingly supportive,” said Robin Schneider, head of Texas Campaign for the Environment.

A similar bill in the 2013 session did not make it to the House floor.

That bill was supported by the retailers and plastics manufacturers, but opposed by environmentalists and the Texas Municipal League, which lobbies for cities to have more power.

But this time around, Rinaldi’s proposal will have the support of Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he supports overturning certain local rules, including ones preventing the distribution of plastic bags.

Asked if he had evidence that businesses were hurting from the bag bans, Rinaldi said: “It’s simple economics: Increase prices and you affect demand. I know they’re hurting.”

Author: Asher Price

Asher Price has covered energy and the environment for the American-Statesman since 2006. Twice the Society of Environmental Journalists has named him a finalist for its beat reporter of the year award. He spent part of the spring of 2011 as an environmental science journalism fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and during the 2011-12 academic year was stationed at Columbia’s business and journalism schools as a Knight-Bagehot fellow. He is the co-author of the book The Great Texas Wind Rush: How George Bush, Ann Richards and a Bunch of Tinkerers Helped the Oil and Gas State Win the Race to Wind Power. (UT Press.) His new book, Year of the Dunk, comes out in May 2015. He lives in the South Congress neighborhood with his wife and dog.

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