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Ban on foam cups advances in Maryland, along with gender-neutral IDs

Members of the Maryland House of Delegates convene at the Maryland State House in Annapolis. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Maryland’s proposed first-in-the-nation statewide ban on foam food containers appears headed for passage after a decisive House of Delegates vote on Tuesday.

The 97-to-38 vote came on the heels of the Senate’s approval o f similar legislation last week and signals that the state’s Democratic Party-dominated General Assembly intends to pass a ban this year. Lawmakers still must resolve some differences, since the House version calls for a more sweeping ban on polystyrene foam.

The bills passed each chamber by a veto-proof majority, largely along party lines, suggesting enough support to override a veto, should Gov. Larry Hogan (R) choose to issue one.

The legislation would make Maryland the first state in the country to outlaw the sale of foam cups, takeout containers and food packaging.

Proponents of the ban say foam containers damage the environment, clogging up waterways and filling landfills with trash that is not fully biodegradable.

“We have to do what we can to limit our impact on the planet,” said Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), who sponsored the House’s ban.

Hogan has not taken a public position on outlawing the foam containers, and a spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Bans are already in place in Maryland’s two most populous counties — Prince George’s and Montgomery — and in cities across the country, including Washington, New York and Miami. As environmentalists push to reduce “plastic pollution,” cities such as the District have also banned plastic straws.

Last week, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., announced it would stop selling foam food containers in its 12 theme parks nationwide, potentially eliminating the addition of 14 million pieces of foam into the environment each year.

Under Maryland’s proposed ban, products packed out of state, such as dried ramen soup sold in a foam cup, could still be sold. But local egg producers, restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses that package and sell their goods in the Old Line State would be required to use other containers.

The House version of the bill puts local governments in charge of enforcing the ban and allows them to fine people up to $250 for violating it.

Also Tuesday, the House gave preliminary approval to creating gender-neutral driver’s licenses, which five other states and the District already offer. The IDs would allow applicants to designate their gender as “X”, rather than “M” for male or “F” for female. Proponents say the IDs are designed to be inclusive of transgender people and those with non-binary gender identities.

The House advanced the measure, which has already been passed by the Senate, without debate. It will be up for a final vote this week.

The chamber also gave preliminary approval to legislation that would return control of the school calendar to local districts. The bill would effectively reverse Hogan’s executive order that requires Maryland schools to begin after Labor Day and end by June 15.

While most Maryland residents have told pollsters they support a post-Labor Day start, many education policymakers say the executive order unnecessarily compresses the academic year, hurting student achievement. The Senate approved a repeal of Hogan’s executive order last month, but lawmakers must resolve details on how such a change would work.

Maryland moves closer to becoming first state to ban plastic foam food containers

On patrol with the enforcer of D.C.’s plastic-straw ban

‘Are we going to call them X men?’ Maryland moves forward on gender-neutral IDs

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