- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — A Prince George’s lawmaker who missed a key vote Wednesday on a proposed county bag tax said she is leaning toward voting against the legislation if it comes back up for a vote next week.

Delegate Veronica L. Turner, a Democrat, said she likely would have voted against the proposed 5 cent bag tax had she not missed Wednesday’s county delegation vote because of illness.

The Prince George’s House Delegation’s six-member County Affairs Committee voted 3-2 in favor of the tax but failed to receive the necessary constitutional majority of four votes in Mrs. Turner’s absence.

Committee Chairman Delegate Justin D. Ross, a Democrat, said the panel could vote on the measure again next week. If Mrs. Turner votes against the tax, it would likely kill the legislation.

“We’ve been doing a lot of research and talking to constituents,” she said. “I’m still listening.”

The County Council voted 8-0 in favor of the tax Tuesday, but Prince George’s law requires that the county receive state approval before implementing any new tax.

Supporters argue the tax will curb littering and pollution but have downplayed its potential revenue impact.

Mrs. Turner said she initially supported the bag tax and still thinks it would be good for the county but that she has been swayed by strong opposition from constituents.

She said county officials have urged her to support the bill but that phone calls and emails to her office from bag-tax opponents have outnumbered those from supporters by a more than 10-to-1 margin.

“Your constituents put you down here to take care of their needs and their wants,” Mrs. Turner said. “We’re going to talk about it and we’ve got until next week for me to cast my vote.”

If the committee passes the bag tax, it would then be voted upon by the county’s entire 23-member House delegation. If successful there, it would move on to the entire General Assembly.

State lawmakers would likely defer to the county’s decision unless they have glaring concerns.

Last month, Montgomery County became the state’s first county to enact a bag tax, modeling its program largely after one in place in the District.

• David Hill can be reached at dhill@washingtontimes.com.

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