- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A ban on single-use plastic bags advanced in the state Legislature, the second of a pair of bills on the subject to move past initial hearings.

The bill would ban retail stores from giving out single-use plastic bags, including potentially compostable plastic bags, starting in 2020, and would set requirements for other types of bags and require stores to collect a 10-cent charge for each recycled paper or reusable bag handed out.

The bill is one of a pair of linked measures advancing in the Legislature, both of which have now progressed further than similar proposals in previous years.

The Senate version advanced out of the Environment, Energy and Technology committee in late January. The House version advanced late Tuesday on a vote by the Environment and Energy committee.

While initial committee approval is an early step for proposed legislation in the state capitol, it’s further than earlier efforts made it: Neither a proposed ban in 2015 nor a proposed tax on single-use bags in 2017 were even put up for votes in legislative committees then controlled by Republicans.

Seattle Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle, co-sponsor of the Senate version, said he thought the bills had a better chance than previous measures, with broader support in the Legislature and the prominence of pollution and environmental issues more broadly.

Only three lawmakers added their names to the 2015 proposal, but both versions introduced this year have ten signers or more. Carlyle added that environmental groups have made the bill a top priority, and that backers are flexible on the 10-cent charge, a sticking point for paper bag manufacturers.

Republican Rep. Mary Dye, of Pomeroy, voted against the House version Tuesday, and said later that it was over-regulation, and would stop communities from making their own rules on how to handle plastic pollution.

Along with a ban on single-use plastic bags, the bill would set requirements for recycled paper bags, which would have to be at least 40 percent recycled material.

Some disposable plastic bags used inside stores would be exempt from the ban, including bags for fruits and vegetables, prepared or bulk foods, and loose bulks items like screws.

Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, sponsor of the House bill, said his intention was for compostable bags to be included in the ban.

Either proposal would take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, and businesses would have roughly a year to use up their existing supplies of disposable bags before facing a $250 fine for violations.

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