Minneapolis Considers Imposing a Fee on Plastic Bags

Published June 21, 2019

A Minneapolis City Council member is proposing a bag fee to circumvent a state law that preempts local bag bans.

The Minneapolis City Council approved an ordinance that would have effectively banned single-use plastic bags in 2016. It was preempted before it was set to take effect in June 2017, by a state law prohibiting such local actions.

Currently, the Minneapolis City Council is conducting an online survey of residents’ views on imposing a 5 cent fee on both plastic and paper carryout bags, a measure championed by City Council member Cam Gordon, who says it is consistent with state law, Minnesota Daily reported on April 22.

Working for Consistency

Economic fairness is a justification for the state to exercise its authority, Minnesota state Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R-Greenfield) told Budget & Tax News.

“My strongest, most compelling reason to have preemption in some of these areas is to make sure that with respect to commerce that all businesses are on a level playing field,” Hertaus said.

“There are certain things with regard to commerce and business that should be maintained as a level playing field, and I think preemption in some of these areas is most appropriate,” Hertaus said.

Patchwork of Ordinances’

Enacting local ordinances like the bag tax fails to cultivate good relationships between business and government and promote commerce for the benefit of residents, says Hertaus.

 “It basically paints a culture of anti-business, anti-friendly,” Hertaus said. “Overall, when you add it all up, I think there is a cumulative effect.”

“We are in favor of statewide uniformity,” Seaholm said. “A local patchwork of ordinances is burdensome on consumers and businesses.

“Oftentimes local governments don’t have the ability or expertise to enact significant policy regulations, and that’s why the discussion is best had at the state level,” Seaholm said.

‘Eco-Friendly’ Reuse

Plastic bag taxes and bans would not affect the amount of plastic waste generated in Minneapolis, says Isaac Orr, a policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment.

“Generally, it takes 130 reuses of canvas bags to make them more ‘eco-friendly’ than a plastic bag,” Orr said. “If you reuse the plastic bag a few times, then the number [of uses] obviously goes up” for canvas bags to become eco-friendlier.

There is an easy way to reduce litter, Orr says.

“Throw the plastic bags away,” Orr said. “It really is as simple as properly disposing of the bags to keep them out of the environment.”

Part of Progressive Agenda?

“Bag fees will not help Minneapolis solve its environmental concerns or other issues the city faces,” Orr said.

“Rather than focusing on practical and affordable solutions to today’s problems, the City Council has got to the point to where they are fixated on enacting more and more progressive legislation such as banning new drive-throughs and requiring home energy audits before a property can be sold, even though these policies will have immeasurably small environmental benefits,” said Orr.

Kelsey E. Hackem ([email protected]) writes from Washington State.

Official Connection

Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R-Greenfield): https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/profile/15400