Senator Simcha Felder‘s efforts to prohibit the city from charging five cents for most plastic and paper shopping bags bore fruit yesterday when the State Senate voted to overturn the measure which passed the City Council last month.
But advocates for the measure won a reprieve after the Assembly struck a deal with the City Council to delay enacting the bill while city officials hammer out an amended bill more to the Assembly’s liking. The charge, if enacted, will now go into effect in February and not in October.
“The plastic bag got a short reprieve — but its days of littering our trees, parks, and oceans, clogging up our storm drains and recycling equipment, and filling up our landfills with tons of solid waste are numbered,” said City Council Member Brad Lander (Park Slope, Kensington, Windsor Terrace), who sponsored the legislation. “The extra few months will allow us to do an even better job of outreach and reusable bag giveaways to help New Yorkers in all communities get ready to start bringing their own bags.”
The measure, which passed the City Council, 28-20, last month in a contentious vote, will allow the markets putting the fee on the bags to keep the money, because if it went into City coffers it would constitute a tax, which only state lawmakers can vote to impose.
The Brooklyn delegation in the Council voted against it 8-6. Voting against the measure were Council Members Inez barron, Robert Cornegy Jr., Chaim Deutsch, Mathieu Eugene, Vincent Gentile, David Greenfield, Darlene Mealy and Mark Tryeger.
Felder has been in opposition to the bag fee ever since the measure was introduced in 2008. At the time he was a City Council member while he was in the City Council.
“I’ve been disgusted every time I’ve heard the absurd plastic bag tax legislation introduced,” he said. “New York City has to stop nickel and diming New Yorkers. This tax placed an undue financial burden on countless low- and middle-income residents who already struggle.”
After it passed the Council, Felder and Assemblyman Michael Cusick (Staten Island), put together the bill prohibiting the imposition of any tax, fee or local charge on carry-out merchandise bags on any municipal jurisdiction in the state.
“The last thing New Yorkers need is another regressive tax,” said Felder when he introduced his bill in the Senate. Other Brooklyn Senators against the City Council measure included Marty Golden (Bay Ridge, Marine Park), Roxanne Persaud (Canarsie, Mill Basin, Brownsville) and Diane Savino (Coney Island, Staten Island).
Felder also initiated an on-line Stop the Bag Tax petition, which allowed his constituents and other New Yorkers to weigh in on the issue. Felder and the Senate’s Cities Committee also chaired a Public Hearing in Manhattan. The Senate’s Cities Committee voted unanimously in favor of moving the bill forward.
“I appreciate the support that we had, but I wasn’t surprised by the outcome because my colleagues have followed this issue closely and heard the concerns of New Yorkers far and wide,” Felder said.
But Lander maintains the nickel charge on plastic and paper bags is needed to reduce the amount of plastic bag waste that also clogs the landfills and sewers.
“We thank the Assembly for refusing to go along with the Senate’s anti-environmental overreach, and look forward to working with them toward thoughtful implementation,” he said.