Bill that would have imposed fees for plastic bags dies in committee

In a setback for environmentalists, a House committee killed a bill Saturday that would have enabled counties to impose a fee on disposable plastic and paper bags given out by stores to carry merchandise.

The Economic Matters Committee voted 14-9 to disapprove the measure, sponsored by Del. Mary Washington, a Baltimore Democrat. The bill had earlier been passed by the Environmental Affairs Committee but required the approval of both panels.

The legislation would have placed a 5-cent fee on bags – with exceptions for such items as carry-out food and dry-cleaning – and would have let the stores retain one cent of the fee to compensate for administrative costs. The bill would have directed the proceeds of the fee to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for distribution to the counties to pay for trash cleanup and other environmental programs.

Proponents argued that the fee would reduce the amount of trash that ends up in waterways and promote the use of recyclable bags. The bill would not have applied to Montgomery County, which already has a similar program.

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