Kansas takes action to block plastic bag bans by cities and counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Pushed by business groups, Republicans in the GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature moved Wednesday to block local bans, restrictions or taxes on plastic bags or other packaging.

The state Senate voted 27 to 13 for a bill that would strip cities and counties of their power to regulate or tax bags, cups, bottles or other packaging. The measure would not only cover plastic, but also fabric, paper, cardboard, aluminium, glass or expanded plastic such as polystyrene. The bill then goes to the House.

Supporters of the bill included the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and groups representing small business owners, soft drink distributors and restaurants, and they argued that a patchwork of local regulations would be difficult for consumers to follow. businesses. Some supporters have also suggested that local bans could create confusion about their scope.

“I would just like us to imagine banning plastic bags for a second. Does this include banning plastic bin bags? Senate Commerce Committee Chair Renee Erickson, a Republican from Wichita, said during a short debate Wednesday. “I personally love Twizzlers. They come in a plastic bag. Should they be banned – those plastic bags?”

At least 18 states have blocked local plastic bag regulations, including the surrounding four in Kansas, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Kansas proposal was approved by the state’s Senate committee on Monday, and it was one of the last items to give the full Senate an endorsement on its ‘turnaround’ deadline for most bills to clear their original room.

“There are retailers in Kansas that have multiple locations in multiple cities and counties, so pass a restriction or ban in one city or county – that retailer then has to supply or ship special products to that county but not the next county or this city. and not the next town,” Kent Eckles, a Kansas House lobbyist, told the Commerce Committee last week. “It affects the supply chain.”

Environmentalists argue that plastic bags create additional waste and lasting hazards to fish and animals and their habitats. At least eight states have banned single-use plastic bags, including New York and California, and in Kansas the idea has been considered in Lawrence, the liberal headquarters on the University of Kansas’ main campus, and in Wichita. , the largest city in the state.

“Right now we’re dealing with an incredible amount of trash,” Bag Free Wichita pro-ban member Lori Lawrence told the committee last week. “We really have to be able to put limits on that, restrictions on that.”

Democratic Sen. Marci Francisco of Lawrence said the state’s proposed policy could restrict how city and county issues deal with recyclable waste — something the bill’s supporters dispute. She and other critics of the bill have argued that cities and counties should be allowed to impose policies desired by their residents.

“When mere business convenience outweighs autonomy, it’s a sad day in Kansas,” said Democratic Senator Mary Ware of Wichita. “It’s an anti-democracy bill.”

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