- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Decisions on whether to ban or tax disposable plastic bags will remain with Louisiana’s local government leaders.

A St. Tammany Parish lawmaker scrapped his effort Thursday to create roadblocks for such restrictions amid pushback from local government officials who said state lawmakers shouldn’t be meddling in municipal decision-making.

Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, initially proposed to prohibit city and parish governments from being able to adopt the plastic bag ordinances. He rewrote the bill to require local voters to authorize any restrictions on the bags used by grocery stores and retailers.

Still Hollis faced opposition, particularly from local government officials. Representatives of the Louisiana Municipal Association and the city of New Orleans spoke against the bill. New Orleans officials are considering whether to enact restrictions on disposable plastic bags.

“We’re asking you to not interfere with the locally-elected body’s ability to exercise their authority,” said Rodney Braxton, representing the city.

Hollis described his proposal as protecting personal liberty and stopping onerous business regulations.

“The way I see this is far, far too much government,” he said. “If you start with something like a plastic bag, where does it end?”

Municipalities across the country, as well as the state of California, have banned single-use plastic bags. Others have adopted bag taxes to discourage their use. Last month, Indiana’s governor signed a new law prohibiting city and county officials from being able to restrict the use of disposable plastic bags by retailers.

Lawmakers on the Louisiana House municipal affairs committee appeared split on the issue.

Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, talked about local problems with waste and her use of canvas bags for shopping. Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, described concerns about city governments facing “a lot of issues from our landfills.”

“At some point in time, companies have to be more environmentally friendly,” White said.

However, Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, said Hollis’ bill addressed concerns that too many regulations get enacted. He said no one should “fear the vote of the people.”

Business organizations echoed concerns about additional regulations, while other groups described their worries about the environmental impacts of plastic bags.

“We cannot claim to be the ‘Sportsman’s Paradise’ without a clean environment,” said Rhonda Ardoin, owner of a New Orleans company called Bayou Paddlesports that does a twice-a-year cleanup of a city waterway.

Hollis said fees and restrictions on plastic bags infringe on individual freedoms. Being forced to keep a canvas bag in the car to go shopping “seems punitive to me,” he said.

But after defending the principles, Hollis still pulled the bill from consideration in the House municipal affairs committee.

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House Bill 192: www.legis.la.gov

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte


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