I’m still het up about SB 139.
It’s easy to refer to SB 139 as “the plastic bag ban ban,” but it’s better to call it what it is, and SB 139 is – above all else – one more way for the Legislature to usurp local control, and to undermine the ability of communities from Tybee Island to Trenton to have conversations about the unique issues that impact their cities.
The Savannah Morning News nailed it when they editorialized in February:
There’s a right way and a wrong way to pass laws in Georgia that affect local communities.
The right way is to let local city councils and county commissions make that decision.
The wrong way is to have the Georgia Legislature pull rank and pass a statewide bill that negates what local communities do.
For the City of Tybee Island, this is a conversation about plastic bags and the negative economic impact these bags have on their city. For many Tybee Island residents, the issue at hand is also the harm these bags do to turtles, jellyfish, and the environment in general.
Many who oppose plastic bag bans cite concern that these bans (which typically oblige shoppers who don’t have a reusable bag to purchase a bag for a nominal fee) disproportionately impact the poor, or that they will drive businesses outside of the city limits of a bag-restrictive community. These are all valid concerns, and they merit discussion by any interested community.
For the state of Georgia, the conversation is different, and what makes this bill so outrageous has nothing to do with turtles, or jellyfish, the Pacific garbage patch, or the cleanliness of any strips of warm Atlantic sand where you might be inclined to park either your bum or your Bud.
SB 139 shatters the notion of local control, and undermines local conversations and the local leaders who should have the ability to work within their city or county to craft ordinances that are the best thing for their communities.
Senator Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) and other supporters of SB 139 cite concerns that if different cities have different rules regarding plastic bags, or any other “auxiliary container,” the result will be “regulatory mayhem.” That assertion is absolute straw man nonsense, especially when one considers the fact that Senator Harper also sponsored SB 91, which would have given local governments the autonomy and the authority to decide whether grocery stores can sell beer and wine within 100 yards of school buildings, school grounds, or a college campus.
When we look past turtles and the environment and cut to the essence of this bill, it is clear why it is not worthy of support from any lawmaker who respects local control.