OK, I will be the first to admit I don’t always bring my own bags to the grocery store. Sometimes they get left in the kitchen after I’m done unpacking groceries and I’m just too damn lazy to put them back in the car. But you know what? I might be a little more disciplined about it if I lived someplace like Austin, where forgetting your bags will cost you a hefty quarter per pop at HEB. Sure, I’d bitch, but I’d pay it, because a) it’s my fault for forgetting my bags and b) it’s a small price to pay to have fewer plastic bags floating down city streets and local rivers, like little, odd polyethylene decorations.
But wait! Canton Republican rep Dan Flynn is coming to the rescue. He thinks that these regulations have made life hard for shoppers, even though no cities in his district actually have plastic-bag bans. You see, he cares, deeply, about Walmart shoppers in Austin and Fort Stockton.
Just kidding. He appears to be carrying the water for the Texas Retailers Association, one of the biggest opponents of the plastic-bag ban, who approached him and asked him to write a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott asking whether this ban is actually legal. You see, there’s a line in the Texas Health & Safety Code that says cities cannot “assess a fee or deposit on the sale or use of a container or package.” In fact, the Texas Retailers Association had actually sued the city of Austin over the bag ban, but dropped the suit several months later, citing legal costs. Apparently, the TRA thought this would be an easier – and cheaper! – way to make the ordinance go away.
I’m no attorney, but it would seem to me that the language of this particular line of the Texas Health & Safety Code means that cities can’t place a special tax on the sale of containers, or charge someone extra for using a certain kind of container. Also, it doesn’t seem to have been written with plastic bags in mind.
But let’s get down to the real issue. With public schools underfunded, young people undereducated, and a whole bunch of pissed-off Texas women getting angrier by the day – aren’t there bigger priorities for our lawmakers to focus on?
If you’re Dan Flynn, apparently not.