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Howard County's plastic bag proposal passes House of Delegates

A bill that would allow Howard’s County Council to charge a fee on plastic bags at the point of sale on Monday passed the Maryland House of Delegates in a 99-38 vote.

The measure, proposed by Del. Terri Hill, would exclude a fee for plastic bags used for certain items, among them bulk vegetables or produce, dry cleaning, newspapers or prescription drugs.

A fiscal analysis found the revenue garnered from the fees could be as high as $870,000 if each household purchased three bags per week, based on 2017 census data.

The money garnered from the fee, however, could only be spent on environmental initiatives, administrative costs or to support a program to help with financial access to reusable bags.

Hill, a Democrat who represents portions of Baltimore and Howard counties, co-sponsored the bill and previously said its primary purpose is not to raise revenue but to change behavior to combat climate change.

Plastic bags are made from polyethylene and emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, according to a 2018 report by researchers at the University of Hawaii.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has said previously he doesn’t plan to introduce legislation on the issue. The four Democrats on the County Council — Liz Walsh, Opel Jones, Christiana Mercer Rigby and Deb Jung — have previously expressed interest in probing the issue.

The bill is now in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, pending a hearing.

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