The New York State Senate today passed a bill to prevent cities from taxing consumers for using disposable plastic or paper shopping bags. The bill (S7336), sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder (D, Brooklyn), would prohibit taxes, fees, or local charges on carry-out merchandise bags to prevent a costly burden to shoppers, as well as address potential public health risks and other issues that arise when using reusable bags.
Senator Felder, Chairman of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Cities, said, “The last thing New Yorkers need is another regressive tax. I’ve been disgusted every time I’ve heard the absurd plastic bag tax legislation introduced. This tax placed an undue financial burden on countless low- and middle-income residents who already struggle. I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate for passing his bill, 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.”
Several cities across the country have begun imposing bag taxes, fees, or bans on disposable plastic and paper bags to carry out merchandise as some in the environmental community have abandoned prior support for the bags in order to promote the use of reusable, customer-owned shopping bags. New York City recently enacted legislation due to take effect in October that creates a five-cent tax to be paid by a consumer when they need a disposable plastic or paper bag to carry their purchases.
In May, Senator Felder and the Senate Cities Committee held a hearing on the City’s bag tax which included the sponsor of the New York City Council’s bag tax bill, environmental and community advocates, affected businesses, and other stakeholders. Participants raised issues that included the economic burden a bag tax could have on New York’s residents and businesses, especially low-income families; the potential for increased health risks due to cross-contamination of food when widespread use of reusable bags replaces disposable bags; and the environmental impact of replacing recyclable disposable bags with more permanent bag options.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly.