The Annapolis city council killed a proposal last night to ban retail use of plastic bags and instead introduced a much softer version of the bill that calls for a comprehensive study of their impact.
The demise of the proposed ordinance to ban plastic bags -- heralded by environmentalists and met with mixed reviews by local business owners -- dealt a blow to the bill's sponsor, Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire, who promoted the measure as a way to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
About a dozen people spoke, both for and against the bill. At times during the hearing, Shropshire took exception to opposition statements and verbally sparred with members of the council and Mayor Ellen O. Moyer over their procedural move to replace his proposal, which effectively killed it.
"They sidestepped the issue. This was a cop-out ... that I find very offensive," said Shropshire, who vowed to add amendments to the revised bill that would hold businesses accountable for plastic bag use.
The alternative proposal, which was drafted by Moyer and council members Ross H. Arnett III, Richard E. Israel and Sheila M. Finlayson, would create a voluntary program for city residents to use reusable bags that would be studied for its effectiveness. It would also set up a commission that would examine the city's environmental practices and initiatives.
The new proposal is subject to public comment before the council can vote. "It's an attempt to make the whole thing broader-based and making it not just one issue," said Ray Weaver, the mayor's spokesman. "The feeling among the mayor and some of the aldermen was that addressing one piece of trash -- the plastic bags -- is OK, but it doesn't really address the overall environmental issues."
Under Shropshire's proposal, all retailers and restaurants would have had to provide recyclable paper bags or reusable bags or be fined up to $500.
At a July public hearing, representatives from grocery chains such as Safeway and Giant voiced dissatisfaction with the bill. And while a handful of business owners publicly hailed the legislation, the Annapolis Business Association said the ban would place an undue hardship on downtown business owners.
In another matter, a bill that would have allowed all businesses that serve alcohol to stay open until 2 a.m. was effectively killed after the council denied a request to postpone a vote on firstname.lastname@example.org