The Baltimore County Council on Monday unanimously overrode County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s veto of amendments to the county’s single-use plastic bag ban, exempting liquor stores from the new law.

On Oct. 25, Olszewski vetoed two council amendments to the bipartisan ban on single-use plastic carryout bags, which the council had approved 5-2 and signed into law in February. Since the law went into effect Nov. 1, businesses subject to the ban have been required to charge customers 5 cents for a paper or reusable carryout bag.

By overturning Olszewski’s veto by a 7-0 vote, the council added liquor stores back to the short list of small businesses — convenience stores and other shops with three or fewer locations — that may continue providing goods in thinner, single-use plastic bags at checkout.

Council chair Julian Jones, who proposed the liquor store exemption in mid-October, which passed unanimously then, too, said Monday that the amendment “is an attempt to correct an injustice” by which liquor store owners, who are limited in the number of county locations they may operate, were treated differently than other small local businesses despite meeting the same conditions.

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“They [liquor store owners] don’t want to nickel-and-dime their customers, and they felt like they were being singled out,” Jones said during the council meeting.

Councilman Patrick “Pat” Young offered a separate motion to overturn Olszewski’s veto of a measure that would have counted thinner plastic bags — 2.25 mils, instead of 2.6 mils — as “reusable” bags. However, it was rejected on a 4-3 vote. Voting against it were council members Izzy Patoka, Wade Kach, David Marks and Mike Ertel voted.

Olszewski had argued that Young’s original proposal to count thinner bags as “reusable” would have made the ban on single-use plastic bags ineffective.

In a statement Monday night, Olszewski said: “We appreciate the Council has upheld the most important veto, but are disappointed by their override that exempts liquor stores from this law.”

“Moving forward,” Olszewski continued in a Monday statement, “we remain focused on ensuring Baltimore County continues to reduce plastic bag waste from littering our trees, waterways, and neighborhoods.”

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In an interview shortly after the council meeting, Young said his amendment was meant to resolve a requirement on bag thickness that he felt didn’t make sense. Plastic bags that are 2.6 mils thick aren’t manufactured locally, he said.

“At the end of the day, the theme [of the proposed amendments] was what made sense and what didn’t,” he said.

Baltimore County’s law, called the “Bring Your Own Bag Law,” follows similar policies in neighboring jurisdictions banning single-use plastic bags, which pile up in landfills. In June, Anne Arundel County officials voted to ban most plastic bags, and charge 10 cents per paper bag, starting Jan. 1, 2024.

Baltimore City already bans most plastic bags and charges a 5-cent tax on paper bags, and Howard County levies a 5-cent tax on plastic bags.

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Taylor DeVille covered Baltimore County government for The Baltimore Banner with a focus on the County Executive, County Council, accountability and quality of life issues affecting suburban residents. Before joining The Banner, Taylor covered Baltimore County government and breaking news for The Baltimore Sun.

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