UPDATE: The Pennsylvania State Senate has voted in favor of HB 1071, a bag ordinance preemption bill, as reported by TribLIVE.
The June 14 Senate vote went 28-21, roughly along partisan lines, and led to concerns among some members about overriding municipal control. The Pennsylvania Municipal League, led by Pittsburgh's mayor, shared that stance. Proponents of the legislation said it would help protect jobs by keeping local plastics manufacturers in business. The bill will now be sent to Governor Tom Wolf, who some expect will veto it.
- State lawmakers in Pennsylvania are moving forward on legislation, HB 1071, that would prohibit any "political subdivision" from imposing a "ban, fee, surcharge or tax" on any type of plastic bag, as reported by StateImpact Pennsylvania.
- Municipal officials from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, York and Erie have all spoken out against the bill and maintain that they should be free to pass their own regulations. One of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Mike Hanna, has a Novolex facility in his district and has expressed concerns about jobs being lost if bag use is restricted.
- Pennsylvania's House of Representatives passed the bill in a 102-87 vote on April 25. Passage in the Senate is not ensured, though the language could be included in upcoming budget legislation to reduce the chances of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf vetoing it.
This bill is similar to legislation that has passed in other states, though does include a few notable differences. It specifically defines the bags in question as "recyclable plastic bags," meaning "a bag or pouch of flexible packaging made of thin, flexible, plastic film." This definition does not include paper bags, which are commonly included in such legislation. As currently written, the bill would also not preclude individual retailers from enacting their own bans or fees on these bags or any others.
While none of the cities that have spoken against the plan currently have bag ordinances, some have tried and more may want to pursue them in the future. Philadelphia's renewed focus on "zero waste" and litter could potentially focus on plastic bags in some form and Pittsburgh is planning to purchase a new line of "smart" street cans to mitigate its own litter issues.
The debate over recycling plastic bags or limiting their use entirely remains a vibrant one in many parts of the country and the presence of a Novolex facility in the state makes the stakes even higher. Iowa recently became the eighth state to pass legislation prohibiting bag regulations, though similar efforts have been met with more resistance in states such as Texas. On the other end of the spectrum, Vermont is currently considering its own bills to regulate bags that have received broader support so far.