A state lawmaker who sought to quash a proposed New Orleans ordinance that would force shoppers to pay a fee for using disposable bags shelved his bill Thursday, apparently for lack of support.
Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville, agreed to defer his bill, House Bill 192, even after he amended it to say parish voters would have to approve such fees before governmental bodies could enforce them.
Though Hollis told the House Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee that his intention was to ensure that bag fees don’t infringe on personal liberties, committee members seemed more concerned with what they said was an infringement on the rights of local governments.
Hollis’ bill would have barred the New Orleans City Council and other local government bodies from regulating, taxing or prohibiting certain types of packaging, containers or carrying devices without voter approval.
A proposed ordinance in New Orleans would require businesses to charge customers 10 cents for non-biodegradable plastic bags and 5 cents for recyclable paper bags.
The fees would not apply to customers who benefit from public assistance programs, such as food stamps. There also would be exemptions for bags holding a variety of items, including meat or seafood, restaurant takeout meals and Mardi Gras beads, among others.
The aim is to encourage shoppers to carry reusable bags, a move environmental activists say would reduce pollution and slash city waste management costs.
The City Council has not acted on the ordinance.
At least four state lawmakers Thursday said they saw no problem with the ordinance. “Coming from city government ... we face a lot of issues with our landfills, and it comes from plastics, period,” said Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, a former Bogalusa city councilwoman.
Local governments do not have to request citizens’ permission to impose fees on garbage collection, noted Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, that city’s former mayor.
Reps. Patricia Haynes Smith, D-Baton Rouge, and Rodney Lyons, D-Harvey, expressed similar views, saying state lawmakers shouldn’t try to regulate local affairs.
Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.