Plastic bag bans could end up in Texas Supreme Court
- Opponents of bans or fees on single-use plastic bags in Texas say a legal challenge in the state's highest court may be the best option this year. Speaking at a recent event in Austin called "The Californiazation of Texas: Plastic Bag Bans," state Rep. Drew Springer raised the possibility of the issue being decided by the Texas Supreme Court, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman.
- This would likely occur through an appeal to an August 2016 decision from Texas' 4th Court of Appeals that ruled against a proposed bag ban in Laredo. The decision affected 32 counties within the court's district, but did not include Austin. Representatives from both sides of the debate have appealed the ruling for more clarity.
- Legislators have also attempted to regulate the issue statewide. One recently introduced a bill that would allow stores to use bags "made from any material" and ban any container regulations. Though multiple groups, again from both sides of the issue, have argued that this approach would limit local control.
Politicians such as Rep. Springer and Governor Greg Abbott have been fighting local bag regulations for years. More than 10 Texas cities currently have some type of bag ordinance, with Austin's 2013 ban being the largest. Pointing to a reduction of bags in the waste stream, and the fact that no businesses have been fined for noncompliance, Austin has called the measure a success so far.
The concept of banning local regulations on containers or packaging through state legislation has become a growing trend throughout the country. Michigan recently became the seventh state to enact such a law and others have considered similar steps. Supporters of this approach often frame the issue as restricting the freedom of businesses and consumers. Though as seen by pushback from some Texas conservatives the idea of limiting local control can also be interpreted as a restriction of freedom.
Representatives of the plastic bag industry faced a narrow defeat in their costly bid to stop California's bag ban last fall and have since turned their attention to more preemptive statewide measures. Though with the fate of New York City's 5-cent fee set to come up in the state legislature soon and Boston considering its own ordinance these same interests can be expected to keep making their case at the local level as well.
- Austin American-Statesman Texas lawmakers look to courts as they make new run at bag bans
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