A Republican-backed bill to prohibit communities from banning plastic bags and other disposable containers passed the Senate on a mostly party-line vote, following a significant change related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many Republicans have wanted to prohibit local plastic bag bans for a while, to avoid a patchwork of regulations for retailers that operate statewide, but also because the fees those bans can carry could be viewed as an extra tax.
But state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said he was planning on voting "no" on the outright ban on plastic bag bans. He's from Cuyahoga County, which passed a plastic bag ban last year. The ban includes fines on retailers of up to $500.
However, Dolan said he supported this bill because it only lasts for a year.
“What will provide then is consistency and stability for shoppers and for business owners throughout the state," Dolan said.
Republicans said plastic bag bans need to be reconsidered during the pandemic, since many stores have disallowed the use of reusable bags for fear they might be contaminated.
However, Democrats like state Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said the bill strips local officials of home rule powers, and some communities have delayed their bag bans as stores have asked shoppers not to bring in reusable bags.
“To have our local governments be able to make sound decisions – I have faith in our local governments," Antonio said.
Democrats maintain plastic bags are still a serious problem for the environment, and local communities should have the power to take action.
Since the Ohio House approved a permanent ban in December, that chamber would have to agree to the one-year sunset for the measure to pass the legislature. It's unclear if the bill will be signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, who said last year that stopping these bans would be "a mistake."
Some grocery store chains have said they are banning plastic bags in the next few years.