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Maryland House OKs ban on plastic carryout bags

Maryland's House of Delegates approved a bill Thursday that would ban most carryout plastic bags. The state Senate has yet to act on the measure.
Maryland's House of Delegates approved a bill Thursday that would ban most carryout plastic bags. The state Senate has yet to act on the measure. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

The Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill Thursday that would ban stores and restaurants from giving customers plastic carryout bags in most cases.

The lopsided 95-38 vote in the Democrat-dominated House came after years of efforts from environmentalists to tax or ban the bags.

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Several Republicans decried the measure as unnecessary. Del. Mark Fisher, a Calvert County Republican, said banning things such as bags and straws isn’t the best way to improve the environment.

“Banning is what Stalinists do,” Fisher said.

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Del. Kumar Barve, a Montgomery County Democrat who leads a committee that reviewed the bill, countered that the legislation is a “nuanced and well thought out law” based on the experiences of cities and counties with similar measures.

Montgomery County has a 5-cent fee on plastic bags. Howard County approved a 5-cent fee that hasn’t gone into effect yet, and Baltimore also passed a law that hasn’t gone into effect yet that would ban plastic bags and charge a 5-cent fee on paper and other bags.

The statewide bill, which would go into effect in July, has exemptions for bags such as those used in grocery stores for bulk items like nuts and candy, seafood and meat, bakery goods and flowers; bags for produce used by farm stands; as well as newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags and ice bags.

“We’ve all seen the effects of having too much plastic in our neighborhoods and waterways,” said Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat who is the bill’s chief sponsor.

After the vote, the House Democrats posted a celebratory video on Twitter, showing a plastic bag spinning in the wind to Flo Rida’s “Right Round.”

The text on the video read: “We’ve went around and around on this bill. But we’re banning plastic bags by passing House Bill 209.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. A companion bill sponsored by Sen. Malcom Augustine, a Prince George’s County Democrat, has not advanced in the Senate.

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