A proposed 5-cent bag tax for Prince George’s County died in a General Assembly committee Wednesday morning, a day after it won broad support from the Prince George’s County Council.
State Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), a co-sponsor of the measure with House Del. Barbara Frush (D-Prince George’s), said the vote was a major setback but that he may try to revive the legislation.
“This is extremely unfortunate,” Pinsky said.
A bill that could impose a 5-cent bag tax across the state is still pending, but without support from large counties such as Prince George’s, its future is murky.
The bill needed broader support from the Prince George’s House delegation county affairs committee to win approval but fell short on a 3-2 vote. Prince George’s Dels. Carolyn Howard and James Proctor, both Democrats, voted no. Voting for the measure besides Frush were Dels. Jolene Ivey and Justin Ross. Del. Veronica Turner (D) was absent. The measure can come before the panel two more times, and the full delegation could take it up even without the panel’s endorsement.
On Tuesday, the Prince George’s County Council voted 8-0 with one member abstaining to endorse the bill, which first needs approval in Annapolis before the council could enact the bag tax. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) had also backed the bill. Intense lobbying from plastic bag manufacturers operating as the American Chemistry Council helped scuttle the measure. Opponents of the bill said they worried that it could hurt low-income residents.
In November, council member Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel), who had been promoting the bill, helped organize a free distribution of more than 10,000 reusable bags in Prince George’s. Lehman has said that the cost of plastic bags is already part of the price residents pay for goods, and noted that some grocers give customers a 5-cent rebate if they use a reusable bag.
The District of Columbia, which has had the 5-cent bag tax for more than a year, has reported that it has reduced trash and helped clean up the city. Montgomery County imposed its own 5 cent bag tax last month.