Statewide plastic bag ban nearly passes Maryland’s 2020 General Assembly

Fish in the ocean
Photo: Rich Carey/Shutterstock

The 2020 Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act, as introduced by Del. Brooke Lierman (HB209) and Sen. Malcolm Augustine (SB331), would have prohibited retailers from providing plastic carryout shopping bags to customers at the point of sale and required retailers to charge at least 10 cents for other carryout bags. It also would have established a working group to study and make recommendations on actions to reduce plastic and single-use container waste in Maryland.

The bill passed both House Committees (Environment & Transportation, Economic Matters) and on the floor of the House of Delegates (95-37) and the Senate Finance Committee (8-3), with bipartisan support. However, it was substantially weakened by amendments that dropped the required charge for other carryout bags (an incentive to use reusable bags or no bag) and the working group on reducing plastic and single-use container waste. Other amendments restricted the ability of counties to require a retailer price floor for other carryout bags, by requiring them to go to the General Assembly for authorization.[1] Jurisdictions that had already adopted laws imposing a bag tax or fee were exempted. The bill was renamed the “Plastic Bag Reduction Act”.

Nevertheless, with these amendments the bill was highly likely to pass on the Senate floor on the last day of the shortened General Assembly session, and was on the agenda. However, a long floor debate was anticipated, it was delayed on the agenda, and the clock ran out as the session ended.

[1] All counties except for Baltimore County, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County are already required to get General Assembly approval for any type of tax on single-use bags. This amendment went further to require this if any of the jurisdictions wished to mandate that retailers charge for bags (even though this isn’t a tax).
[2] The House and Senate bills were identical and had identical amendments; the links are to HB209.