Tennessee Set to Stop Cities from Banning Plastic Bags

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Tennessee will likely ban local municipalities from regulating certain plastic bags and utensils, after a bill calling for that passed both the Tennessee House and Senate, according to the Memphis-based WMC Action News 5.

All that’s left now is for Republican Gov. Bill Lee to sign the bill into law, which spokesperson Laine Arnold told reporters Friday he would do within the next 10 days.

According to the Associated Press, the measure – nicknamed the “plastic bag bill” – makes it illegal for local governments to impose bag bans, restrictions on Styrofoam containers and other disposable products.

On Monday, before passage, the AP reported:

The bill is being debated in the GOP-dominant Statehouse as Memphis and Nashville — the state’s most populous cities that also lean more liberal — have recently considered levying taxes against single-use plastic bags. The plastic bags industry has opposed such taxes, but state lawmakers have been more willing to pre-empt the local governments.

A Memphis City Council Chairman’s Recap email discussed the matter in January, when council members discussed a plastic bag fee. At that time council members heard arguments from the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which is against the proposed fee, and the Sierra Club and Wolf River Conservancy, who were for the fee.

Minority Democratic members opposed the bill, the AP reported. They argued the legislature should not bypass local governments.

“However, proponents countered that the bill is vital for businesses because it can be costly when a state has a patchwork of plastic bag policies. The state currently has no plastic bag ban in place,” the AP said; adding:

Tennessee is one of at least five states where lawmakers are considering pre-empting local governments from taxing or banning plastic bags that are used to carry everything from groceries to clothing and cosmetics, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website. Eleven other states, including Texas, Arizona and Florida, already have similar laws in place, the NCSL said.

According to the bill’s Summary, the new law “prohibits a local government from adopting or enforcing a resolution, ordinance, policy, or regulation that regulates the use, disposition, or sale of an auxiliary container; prohibits or restricts an auxiliary container; or enacts a fee, charge, or tax on an auxiliary container.”

The summary continues:

This amendment specifies that it does not restrict:
(1) A curbside recycling program;
(2) A designated residential or commercial recycling location;
(3) A commercial recycling program;
(4) The use of an auxiliary container on property owned by a local government; or
(5) The regulation of auxiliary containers at an event, concert, or sports venue owned by a private or public entity or at an event managed by a local government.

This amendment provides that this state is the exclusive regulator of food and drink sellers, vendors, vending machine operators, food establishments, and food service establishments in this state. This amendment prohibits a local government from imposing a tax, fee, or otherwise regulating the wholesale or retail sale, manufacture, or distribution of any food or drink, food or drink content, amount of food or drink content, or food or drink ingredients, except as authorized under state sales tax laws, under the hospitality tax applicable in Sevier County, or pursuant to a contract with the department of agriculture.

This amendment specifies that these provisions:
(1) Do not prohibit a local government from regulating zoning, building codes, locations, hours of operation, or the issuance of permits, or from performing any other local governmental functions as authorized by existing state law, with respect to food and drink sellers and vendors, vending machine operators, food establishments, and food service establishments;
(2) Apply to both the sale and distribution of food or drink by food and drink sellers; food establishments; food service establishments; manufacturers of food and drink products regulated under Tennessee Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act; and vending machines; and
(3) Do no prohibit a local department of health from enforcing existing state laws and rules pursuant to a contract with the state department of health.

Read the full amendment here.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.
Photo “Plastic Bags” by Walmart. CC BY 2.0.













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