• Oklahoma Legislature approves ban on taxing plastic bags

    Updated:
    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Legislature has approved a bill to prevent cities and towns from imposing a fee on single-use plastic and paper bags and it will now proceed to the governor's office.

    The measure aims to bar local governments from prohibiting or taxing "auxiliary containers" used for carrying groceries, carryout and other bought items.

    The Oklahoma House passed Sen. James Leewright's proposal Tuesday, the Journal Record reported. The measure was already approved in the Senate. The bill would also forbid local governments from barring or taxing cups, bottles and other types of to-go containers.

    The proposed measure came after officials in Norman considered imposing a 5-cent tax on plastic bags in an effort to explore ways to limit a chief source of litter and pollution.

    Oklahoma is one of at least five states where lawmakers are considering pre-empting local governments from taxing or banning plastic bags.

    Leewright said permitting local governments to impose fees would be a burden on retailers in addition to being expensive for customers.

    Jacob Rosecrants, a state representative of Norman, called the bill an "overreach" of state government.

    The goal was to establish a "uniform code and not a patchwork" in Oklahoma, said State Rep. Dustin Roberts, who spoke in support the measure before the House.

    Norman Mayor-Elect Breea Clark and other local government advocates contend it is an instance of unsolicited interfering by the state Legislature in local matters.

    "They need to not pre-empt cities and let us do what we do best, and that is handle these kinds of issues," Oklahoma Municipal League Executive Director Mike Fina said.

    The "containers and packaging" category is a primary contributor to the municipal solid waste stream in the U.S., with over 14 million tons worth dumped into public landfills in 2015, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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    Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com

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