Legislature Will Consider Disallowing Cities To Ban Plastic Bags

Mar 4, 2019

The 2019 legislative session will be voting on a bill that would make it illegal for cities and counties to ban the use of plastic bags. Park City and Moab have both banned single use plastic bags and Logan is considering the step. Moab’s mayor talked to KPCW about their efforts to preserve local control.

District 66 representative Michael McKell from Spanish Fork is the sponsor of HB 320, the Auxiliary Container bill which would prohibit a local government entity from regulating or imposing a fee on an auxiliary container. It’s called the Container Regulation Act and container is meant to include, among other materials, single use plastic bags.

Moab Mayor, Emily Niehaus is working with Park City Mayor Andy Beerman to defeat HB 320. Both sit on the Board of the League of Cities and Towns.

“The board has been really useful in pointing out that this is preemption meaning the legislature is trying to tell local communities what to do and talk away our local control. On one end, yes, I’m working with Mayor Beerman as a League board member but yes also we are in communication about how we both have worked hard to pass the ban and really feel discouraged that it would be taken from us.”

Moab City Council member, Karen Guzman-Newton says the residents and retail business owners have been supportive of the plastic bag ban.

“Especially, our City Market, in 2025, they’re going to enact where they don’t even use plastic bags. So, we’re ahead of the game basically.”

Niehaus says there’s always criticism about government overreach.

“The two biggest criticism is one, we didn’t go far enough. Why didn’t we ban straws and water bottles?  And, then the other one was, well Government shouldn’t tell me what to do.  There’s no policy that’s going to get 100 percent support and the government shouldn’t tell me what to do is an argument that we’re all going to hear in all our communities regardless of the policy.”

Neihaus says their representatives fully stand behind Moab’s plastic bag ban. She says the bill narrowly passed out of committee. A hearing was scheduled last Friday, but it was postponed.

“Representative Watkins and Albrecht have even come up with an amendment for Park City and for Moab to exempt us from the prohibition of local governments to make decisions for their communities.

The Moab City Council has sent a letter to every member of the Utah Legislature asking them to uphold the bag ban.  They’ve talked to individual lawmakers as well and community members have been in contact with specific legislators.