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Bag Tax Study Anticipated in 2014

County Executive Isiah Leggett says that a reconsideration of the county bag tax's applicability to bags from non-food and non-alcohol stores needs to be preceded by a data-gathering survey.

Plastic bags at a Montgomery County store. (Credit: Patch.)
Plastic bags at a Montgomery County store. (Credit: Patch.)
Should the county's "bag tax" affect bags provided by any retailer—as is currently the case—or just bags provided by stores selling food or alcohol, as is the case in Washington, DC?

The Montgomery County Council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, chaired by Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac), recently recommended that County Executive Isiah Leggett consider altering the county's 5-cent bag tax—which took effect on Jan. 1, 2012—to affect just bags from food and alcohol stores.

Of the five cents charged for each bag, 1 cent is kept by the retailer, and the remaining 4 cents go toward the county's Water Quality Protection Charge fund.

According to a Nov. 6 letter from Berliner to Leggett, Leggett has told the council committee he believes the county should "have the benefit of two years of operation, a survey and more data" before considering making any changes to the bag tax.

In response, Berliner has requested that the council not deliberate on the bag tax bill until further notice.

Also, Berliner asked Leggett that future studies focus not on the benefits of the bag tax, but on whether or not the tax changes consumer behavior at non-food and non-alcohol stores.

"While I personally believe that there are times when we can rely upon common sense as opposed to data, there is no question that more data is better than less if we are to make educated decisions with regard to this matter. If the data demonstrates that the legislation has resulted in a statistically significant reduction in the use of disposable bags in such establishments, that fact would be a very important consideration in our deliberations," Berliner wrote the letter to Leggett.

Berliner also asked that the survey be conducted in the first half of 2014, so that the results would be available by the middle of the year.

"I anticipate scheduling a [Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment] Committee meeting in September 2014 to review the data, [the] survey results and your recommendations," Berliner added.

Do you think the bag tax should apply to bags provided by non-food and non-alcohol stores? Do you think there should be a bag tax at all? Tell us in the comments.
David Heyman November 06, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Sad that politics clearly got in the way of making a sensible change to a law that overreached and impacts county residents almost daily. There could always be more data. But making the law less onerous and ridiculous is a good start.
PansyAston November 07, 2013 at 07:44 AM
While cooperating fully at grocery stores, bakeries, and other small retail places, I feel ridiculous taking a tote bag into a clothing store!! Looks like I'm ready to shoplift! Surely most of us recycle our nice paper shopping bags, sometimes at the store where we got them. I even bring thr free plastic bags home from our beach house so that I have garbage bags!!

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