Baltimore County Council votes against changes to plastic bag ban fee — for now

Published 9/5/2023 7:51 p.m. EDT, Updated 9/5/2023 9:51 p.m. EDT

Baltimore County Council members met to discuss a proposed plastic bag ban on January 31, 2023.

Baltimore County Council members voted 6-1 to table a bill that would have gotten rid of the forthcoming 5-cent charge for reusable carryout bags in businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants, and would have exempted liquor stores altogether.

Councilman Patrick “Pat” Young motioned to table the bill Tuesday evening, saying he wanted a chance to weigh in on amending “issues contained and not contained” in the law banning single-use plastic bags at many businesses, and requiring customers to pay 5 cents for a reusable or paper bag. The law is scheduled to take effect Nov. 1.

The southwestern county Democrat asked the bill’s sponsor, Republican Councilman Todd Crandell, to “engage with the five members [of the council] that originally voted for the bill passage, to work on fixes and adjustments” before then.

Crandell, whose southeastern district includes Dundalk, was the lone vote against shelving the legislation. In pushing the bill, Crandell said he’s trying to “get ahead of a mistake” in the law before businesses make changes necessitated by the new law.

Crandell’s Republican counterpart, Councilman Wade Kach, said that to change the law now “sends such a mixed message to the business community.”

“When it goes into effect as is, there’s probably gonna be some concern,” said Kach, whose district includes Cockeysville and northern Baltimore County. “I just think that it’d be smart for us to wait until we hear comments from the public, once the bill is in effect, and then act accordingly.”

The bill was largely opposed by environmental advocates who provided testimony during the council’s work session last week. And even had the council approved it, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat, had already warned he would veto the changes.

After voting to put the bill on the back burner, council chair Julian Jones, a Democrat who voted with Crandell against the original bill codifying the bag ban, affirmed his support for Crandell’s bill.

“I think it’s ridiculous” for food service businesses to charge a fee already accounted for in the business’s existing costs, said Jones, who represents western Baltimore County, including Randallstown. But, he conceded, “we’ll move on and work on it another day.”

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