- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — A group of Prince George’s County lawmakers chose Wednesday to delay their vote on a proposed 5-cent bag tax in the county.

The Prince George’s House delegation’s six-member County Affairs Committee will likely vote on the bill next week, after County Executive Rushern L. Baker III requested more time to discuss the proposal with lawmakers.

Mr. Baker, a Democrat, is among many county officials who favor the bill and are trying to urge support from the county’s General Assembly members. The County Council voted 8-0 last week in favor of the tax.

The tax would apply to paper and plastic bags in grocery stores and most retail businesses, and supporters say it would help reduce littering and pollution in the county. Opponents argue it could increase grocery costs and disproportionately affect poorer residents.

“This is an environmental justice bill,” said committee Chairman Delegate Justin D. Ross, Prince George’s Democrat. “Children in poor neighborhoods shouldn’t have to walk past trash on their way to school.”

Unlike some other counties, Prince George’s law requires that the county receive state approval before instituting any new taxes.

Last week, the committee voted 3-2 in favor of the tax, but failed to receive the necessary constitutional majority of four votes needed for passage.

Delegate Veronica L. Turner, Prince George’s Democrat, was absent during the vote but said she was leaning toward voting against the tax.

If the committee passes the bill, it would be voted upon by the entire 23-member House delegation. If passed there, it would move to the Assembly which traditionally defers to county decisions on local bills.

If the bill fails in committee for a second time, rules would allow a third committee vote. A third failed vote would effectively kill the bill.