Utah bill targeting Park City bag ban stalls, but will it be sacked?
March 12, 2019
Utah legislators for the second consecutive year may sack a bill targeting municipal bans of plastic bags.
The measure, H.B. 320, on Tuesday morning remained in the House of Representatives after an unsuccessful attempt on Monday evening by the sponsor, Rep. Michael McKell, a Republican from Spanish Fork, to move the bill to the floor for debate and a vote.
The full House of Representatives could have voted on the bill had it been moved to the floor. At that point, the lower chamber would likely have either approved the bill and advanced it to the Senate or rejected the legislation.
The annual session ends at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, essentially leaving just two days for the House of Representatives to address the bill and potentially advance it to the Senate. The Senate in that scenario would have little time to debate the legislation.
McKell wants the state to prohibit local governments from enacting bans on plastic bags. The bill, if it passes and is signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, would preempt a Park City law prohibiting stores of at least 12,000 square feet selling groceries from distributing razor-thin plastic bags designed to be used just once.
Park City leaders in 2017 enacted the law as part of City Hall's wide-ranging environmental programs. Officials estimate the ban prevents the distribution of 800,000 plastic bags per year in Park City. The ban impacts three stores — Fresh Market, The Market at Park City and Walgreens.
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Park City leaders have lobbied against the bill and opposed a similar legislative measure that failed at the Statehouse in 2018. City Hall argues decisions like whether to enact a ban on plastic bags should be left to local governments. Opponents worry about government overreach and whether the stores in Park City that are impacted are at a competitive disadvantage as a result of the ban. Mayor Andy Beerman in February met McKell to discuss the bill, saying the two sides did not reach a resolution.
The House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee in February voted 6-4 to forward the bill to the full House of Representatives. It has not been clear since then whether the House of Representatives would choose to put the measure to a vote. Had that occurred, the Senate would have had the option to address the legislation.
Matt Dias, the assistant Park City manager and the City Hall staffer assigned to track the Legislature, said in an interview on Tuesday morning the House of Representatives and the Senate typically want to receive bills from the other chamber at least one or two days before the end of the session, leaving the members enough time to debate the measures.
"There is still time, but time is clearly running out," Dias said, referring to the Thursday-night end of the session.
Dias said City Hall hopes the majority of members of the House of Representatives do not see a state interest in overriding decisions made at the local level. The municipal government has taken the same stand through the legislative session in 2019 as well as the session in 2018.
Dias said the legislators in the final days of the session must address broad issues with statewide ramifications like the budget, public safety, waterworks and the state retirement system.
"Far better things for them to spend their time on," he said. "I think that's what they think."