Utah lawmakers target Park City’s bag ban
March 6, 2018
A state senator has bagged support for legislation that would overturn Park City's ban on large stores distributing plastic bags designed to be used just once.
Sen. David Buxton, a Republican from Roy, sponsored S.B. 218 a year after the Park City Council enacted the state's first-ever ban. The City Hall ban prohibits stores that sell groceries and have at least 12,000 square feet from distributing razor-thin plastic bags. Three stores fall under the ban — Fresh Market, The Market at Park City and Rite Aid.
Park City leaders enacted the prohibition as part of the municipal government's wide-ranging environmental efforts as well as in an effort to reduce the number of plastic bags littering the community. Industry figures at the time, though, were concerned about stores outside of Park City having a competitive advantage since they are not covered under the ban. An industry representative told Park City's elected leadership it would be likely the Legislature would become involved if a ban was enacted.
The Burton bill would stop a local government from regulating, prohibiting or restricting the use or sale of bags or a series of other sorts of containers. It also would preempt the action of a local government regardless of when a ban was instituted, meaning that Park City's rule would be nullified if the legislation passes and is signed into law by the governor.
The bill cleared the Senate on Feb. 28 on a 16-12 vote. Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, a Vernal Republican whose district includes Park City, cast a 'Nay' vote after supporting the legislation in two preliminary votes. The legislation remained in the House Rules Committee midday on Tuesday.
Matt Dias, the assistant Park City manager and the City Hall staffer who closely tracks the Legislature, said on Tuesday the municipal government is "cautiously optimistic" the legislation will fail. Dias said the issue should be left to governments in individual communities rather than the Legislature.
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"This is something that should be left to the cities and towns," Dias said, comparing the situation to times when state legislators become unhappy with the federal government when Washington intervenes in what are seen as state-level matters. "The conundrum is states don't like it when the federal government tells them what to do. We have that same paradox here."
The owner of The Market at Park City, Mike Holm, said people who live in Park City have adjusted their habits to reflect the prohibition. People visiting Park City sometimes have questions, though, he said. Holm said the ban has not impacted business.
"I see the good that's happened in the ban of the bags," Holm said.
He said the store distributed approximately 1,300 plastic bags per day prior to the ban. Since the ban took effect, the store has distributed 900 or so paper bags each day, Holm said, explaining that paper bags hold more items than plastic ones.
The number of people who bring their own bags to the store increased by 10 percent since the ban started, he said. Still, only about one out of every five customers brings their own bags, according to Holm. Holm said he is unsure whether the store would offer plastic bags if the ban is overturned. He acknowledged store operations are easier when plastic bags are used since they require less storage space. "Would we bring back plastic bags? I don't know," Holm said.