An Inconvenient tax: picking people’s pockets
By Raymond Thomas Pronk
Warning, when you check out, be on the lookout for pickpockets.
The latest green movement cause du jour is the banning or taxing of disposable plastic and paper bags. These laws or city ordinances are designed to nudge or coerce customers to bring their own reusable tote bag when they shop for groceries and other merchandise.
A number of United States cities including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boulder, Austin and now unfortunately Dallas have either banned or taxed disposable plastic and/or paper bags or so-called “single-use carryout bags.” According to the Earth Policy Institute, over 20 million people are currently covered by 132 city and county plastic bag bans or fee ordinances in the U.S.
For decades most American and European businesses have provided their customers bags, at no additional charge, to carryout and transport their purchase. In the 1980s businesses began to give their customers a choice of paper or plastic.
On March 26, 2014, the Dallas City Council passed an 8 to 6 City Ordinance No. 29307. It requires business establishments that provide their customers “single-use carryout bags” to register with the city annually each location providing these bags and charge their customers an “environment fee” of 5 cents per bag to promote a “culture of clean” and “to protect the natural environment, the economy and the health of its residences.”
Give me a break. It is a new tax to raise millions in new tax revenue for the City of Dallas. Who are the elected Dallas-8 council member watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) that ordained this tax on the people and businesses of Dallas? The names of the Dallas-8 are Tennell Atkins, Carolyn R. Davis, Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Dwaine R. Caraway, Sandy Greyson, Philip T. Kingston, and Mayor Mike Rawlings.
The Dallas-8 are led by council member Caraway, who wanted to completely ban plastic and paper single-use carryout bags. Instead they decided to shake down Dallas businesses and their customers with a new highly regressive tax. Caraway refuses to call it a tax and claims the new ordinance which went in effect on January 1 is “a ban with a fee, such as other cities are doing across the United States.”
The eight-page ordinance includes the definition and standards that reusable carryout bags must satisfy: “A reusable carryout bag must meet the minimum reuse testing standard of 100 reuses carrying 16 pound.” Reusable bags may be made of cloth, washable fabric, durable materials, recyclable plastic with a minimum thickness of 4.0 mil or recyclable paper that contains a minimum of 40 percent recycled content.
All of the above reusable bags must have handles with the exception of small bags with a height of less than 14 inches and a width of less than 8 inches.
Business establishments can either provide or sell reusable carryout bags to its customer or to any person.
The city ordinance exempts some bags from the single-use carryout definition including:
Plastic bags used for produce, meats, nuts, grains and other bulk items inside grocery or other retail stores,
Single-use plastic bags used by restaurants to take away prepared food only where necessary to prevent moisture damage from soups, sauces, gravies or dressings,
Recyclable paper bags used by restaurants to take away prepared food,
Recyclable paper bags from pharmacies or veterinarians for prescription drugs,
Laundry, dry cleaning or garment bags,
Biodegradable door-hanger and newspaper bags, and
Bags for trash, yard debris and pet waste.
The Dallas 5 cent paper and plastic bag tax or environment fee applies only to single-use carryout bags defined as bags not meeting the requirements of a reusable bag.
Businesses that violate the ordinance can be fined up to a maximum of $500 per day.
Lee Califf, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a bag manufacturing group, said “This legislation applies to a product that is less than 0.5 percent of municipal waste in the United States and typically less than 1 percent of litter in studies conducted across the country;” “Placing a fee on a product with such a minuscule contribution to the waste and litter streams will not help the environment: but it will cost Dallas consumers millions more per year on their grocery bills, while hurting small business and threatening the livelihoods of the 4,500 Texans who work in the plastic bag and recycling industry.”
Stop the shakedown of Dallas businesses and their customers. Repeal the inconvenient tax on paper and plastic disposable bags by voting out of office the Dallas-8 city council members who voted for this tax, Dwaine Caraway. Support your Texas state representatives in passing a new law that would prohibit cities such as Dallas and Austin from banning or taxing paper and plastic carryout bags.
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