Plastic bags bill too heavy-handed

(Bloomington) Herald-Times

Last August, we opposed the idea that the city council would ban the use of plastic bags in the city. While we said the idea from a group called Bring Your Bag Bloomington came from an honest concern for the environment, we encouraged education and voluntary compliance over a governmental ban.

That opposition should not be confused with our belief that the city council should have the right to enact an ordinance that would ban using the bags if it decided that was best for the city. This is a case in which home rule should carry the day.

Now comes a bill in the Indiana General Assembly that would take away home rule when it comes to this issue. Our opposition to this bill dwarfs our reasoning for opposing a local ban on the bags themselves.

The bill, authored by Ron Bacon, R-Chandler, and co-authored by Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, does not try to disguise its intention of having the state telling local communities what to do. Its summary states that the bill “Amends the home rule statute to prohibit a local government unit from regulating” … and then proceeds to list in legislative language a bunch of stipulations that boil down to blocking communities from trying to regulate the use of single-use bags.

The Bloomington folks wanted the council to eventually — after a transition year — prohibit stores from using the single-use bags and charge a fee for paper bags. The idea was to encourage people to carry reusable cloth bags when they’re shopping and was based on 130 ordinances in place in other jurisdictions.

We said environmentally conscious shoppers would respond to the call to bring their own bags, but that we thought the 15-cent fee would wind up hurting some people who could least afford it. We also said the so-called single-use plastic bags also did get reused for things such as lining trash cans or litter boxes, to clean up after dogs, to pack lunches, and to deliver canned goods and used clothing to organizations that collect and redistribute such things.

This is an issue the people of Bloomington and other local communities can discuss and decide upon. Rep. Bacon, Rep. Lucas and the others in the Legislature should not overreach with a state law that so blatantly goes against the entire Hoosier concept of home rule.

The House has passed the bill 61-32. It’s now in the Senate, where the sponsors are Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, and Erin Houchin, R-Salem.

Houchin, voters might recall, is a candidate in the Republican primary to replace Ninth District U.S. Rep. Todd Young.

We’ve heard a lot from Republican lawmakers and candidates in the U.S. Senate and House races about how the federal government should stop trampling on states’ rights. Surely Houchin won’t take that campaign position while sponsoring a bill that tramples on home rule.

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