Wednesday, June 15, 2016

NY State lawmakers out to shred NY City bag fee

Environmentalists who lobbied for months to get New York City Council to adopt a fee on single-use plastic and paper grocery bags may see their victory snatched away by state lawmakers in Albany.

Marcus Solis reports for ABC 7

Nearly a month after the New York City Council voted to approve a tax on plastic and paper shopping bags, the New York State Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that prevents cities all across the state from doing just that.

The legislation, sponsored by Brooklyn Democratic Senator Simcha Felder, would block the 5-cent tax that was scheduled to go into effect on October 1 in New York City. Fines wouldn't start until April 1, 2017.

Wednesday afternoon, Liz spent $120 on groceries that she'll try and make last for two weeks.

But under a new city law, every bag in her cart, and most bundles are double bagged, would have cost her an extra five cents.

"My pocket it will affect because I'm constantly shopping," Liz said.

The City Council passed the law last month. The goal is to cut down on single use plastic bags, which are rarely recycled and end up as trash in landfills.

The Bronx borough president acknowledges the environmental concerns, but calls the fee: a tax.

"We believe that we have to protect the environment, but we can't do that on the backs of the poor," said Ruben Diaz, Bronx Borough President.

Nick Powell sees this as another case of Albany overreach

The law was supposed to go into effect in October. The state senate has passed its own bill that would prevent municipalities from imposing such fees because of the economic impact.

The city has agreed to work with the assembly to change the law, rather than have it blocked altogether.

"It's good it's being delayed. It's terrible that they are going to charge us for bags, it should be free," said Ben Reyes, a Bronx resident.

The Bronx borough president says he would like to see incentives or a public awareness campaign to cut down use.

"Where we educate folks, we'll teach them to change that behavior, but we protect the environment and we do so in a way that people are not going to have an added strain in their pockets," Diaz said.

For now the law is scheduled to go into effect in February. As for Liz, she seems resigned to the fact that some change is coming.

"It is what it is either way," Liz said.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly and will be voted on next week before it is sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign into law.

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