Albany Won’t Undo the Bag Bill…For Now

Just as fast as it was voted in favor in a 28-20 vote by New York City Council, the Bag Bill, imposing a 5-cent fee on all plastic bags used at retailers in New York City, was at risk of being killed when New York State Senate approved a bill, proposed by Senators Simcha Felder, Marty Golden and Diane Savino, to ban the bag fee, on Tuesday, June 7th.

If the bill were to become law, it would not only prevent NYC’s chance at building a greener and more sustainable city by imposing the bag fee, but it would also destroy the chance of any city, town, or neighborhood throughout the state to impose any form of a bag tax.  But this bill would not stop there – it would also prevent all retailers from enforcing their own fee’s in attempt to reduce plastic bag pollution.

Despite the facts that bag bills have worked in other cities, such as Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., lobbyists and activists from the plastic bag industry tirelessly fight, stating that it will not do any good, especially since the fee is just a money making scheme for retailers.

Thankfully, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has reached an agreement with City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito so it will not come up for a vote this session, protecting the proactive change and integrity of New York City’s environmental stewardship by postponing the enactment of the NYC bill to mid-February 2017, during the next legislative cycle.

In response to an interview with POLITICO, Heastie responded that they would not be taking the bill up in this session: “We have an agreement with the City Council to push off the enactment date of their local law until February,” Heastie said. Other comments by Heastie highlight that there are concerns in the Assembly about the bill.

In response, Council Member and co-sponsor, Brad Lander, views this postponement optimistically, stating that it will give them time to work with retailers, and communities, on ways to incentivize and give away more reusable bags.

Assembly Speaker Heastie and City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito were able to work together and convince Albany to never let the bill reach a vote – if they postpone the enactment to mid-February 2017; and devise new strategies around the implementation of the bill.  Begrudgingly, Albany legislators agreed – leaving the rest of the state free to enforce their own sort of bag legislation, but unfortunately, having to be environmentally-minded with caution.