New Year, New Legislation, New Hope..


With a new vaccine against COVID-19, we have renewed energy for seeing environmentally friendly legislation go through the Maryland legislature and become law. The legislature will be looking at a variety of bills that Plastic Free QAC are following, but the most promising is the Plastic & Packaging Reduction Act, which would eliminate plastic shopping bags.

WHAT YOU CAN DO..

Contact members of the legislature and let them know your views. Click here for two sample letters you can use...


Dear Delegate….

I am contacting you to urge you to support the legislation by Del. Lierman to eliminate plastic shopping bags in Maryland. Several other states (CA, CT, DE, HA, ME, NY, OR, VT) and Maryland geographic locations such as Montgomery County, Chestertown and Westminster have eliminated these single-use bags.

Plastic Free QAC conducted an in-person survey of Queen Anne’s County businesses in 2019, asking if they would support a ban on plastic shopping bags. Fifty-five retailers, 10 restaurants, 3 hotels, 4 schools, 10 farms, 7 marinas and 4 environmental groups supported getting rid of single-use plastic bags. In total, almost 100 establishments were in favor of saying good-bye to polluting plastic bags.

The 100 million plastic bags that are used in the U.S. annually pollute our environment because they are rarely recycled. The average single-use plastic bag is used for 12 minutes, and the plastic never biodegrades. It is time that we switch to reusable bags to save the environment.

Please support the Plastic & Packaging Reduction Act, eliminating single-use plastic bags.

Sincerely, Your name


Dear Senator Hershey, Jr.

(use same letter as above, just substitute the first paragraph)

I am contacting you to urge you to support the legislation by Sen. Augustine to eliminate plastic shopping bags in Maryland. Several other states (CA, CT, DE, HA, ME, NY, OR, VT) and Maryland geographic locations such as Montgomery County, Chestertown and Westminster have eliminated these single-use bags…..

Please support the Plastic & Packaging Reduction Act, eliminating single-use plastic bags.

Sincerely, Your name

Sen. Stephen S. Hershey, Jr. (R), District 36 James Senate Office Building, Room 420 11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401 (410) 841-3639 e-mail: steve.hershey@senate.state.md.us

Del. Steven J. Arentz (R), District 36 House Office Building, Room 308 6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401 (410) 841-3543 e-mail: steven.arentz@house.state.md.us

Del. Jefferson L. Ghrist (R), District 36 House Office Building, Room 430 6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401 (410) 841-3555 e-mail: jeff.ghrist@house.state.md.us

Del. Jay A. Jacobs (R), District 36 House Office Building, Room 321 6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401 (410) 841-3449 e-mail: jay.jacobs@house.state.md.us

LEARN MORE about the Maryland Plastic Bag Bill and steps of legislation…

The Maryland state bag ban bill was introduced in the 2020 session by Delegate Brooke Lierman in the House and Senator Augustine in the Senate. The bill was passed by the House and the Senate Finance Committee, and was ready to be sent for a vote in the Senate when the legislative session ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 virus. When a legislative session ends, all the pending legislation dies and must start all over again in the next session.

When the Maryland legislature goes into its 3-month session beginning January 13, 2021, Del. Lierman plans to reintroduce the bill. In working with the Sierra Club’s Zero Waste group, Del. Lierman informed us that the bag ban bill is likely to pass through both the House and Senate and become law. That said, moving it through the legislative wheels expeditiously is only likely to happen if no changes are made to the bill’s original language from last year. The most important language is the fact that the bill does not include charges for the additional cost of the paper bags to be used instead of plastic bags. Most retailers prefer to make up for the additional cost, but while nothing prevents them from charging for paper, unless that charge is across the board, stores are not likely to do so if a competitor gives paper bags away for free. Nobody wants to lose business over the charge of a paper bag.

Plastic Free QAC and other environmental groups are excited about the prospect of getting rid of plastic shopping bags and agree that we would rather see the bill pass as is rather than fight (and likely lose) over the issue of charging for the paper bags.

The Legislative Process

What steps does it take for the bag ban (or any bill) to become law?

  1. A legislator, Del. Lierman in this case, introduces a bill and works with environmental groups to develop the intention of the bill and with legislative counsel to get the technical language developed correctly.

  2. Preferably the legislator finds a colleague in the other body to introduce a similar bill. In this case, Del. Lierman and Sen. Augustine worked together to introduce the same bill in the House and the Senate.

  3. After a bill is introduced, it is referred to a committee for hearings to be conducted. In this case the bag ban was referred to several committees -- the Environment and Transportation and the Economic Matters Committees in the House and the Finance Committee in the Senate.

  4. The Chair of each committee sets a date for a hearing at which groups and individuals may testify for or against the legislation.

  5. The committee marks up the bill, i.e., legislators on the committee may introduce amendments, to the language. The committee votes on the bill and reports it out of committee. If they can’t agree, the bill dies in committee.

  6. When the committees have done their work, it goes to the floor of the House (or Senate) for a vote.

  7. Once the House or Senate has voted to pass the bill, it goes to the other side to be dealt with.

  8. If different versions of the bill get passed by the House and the Senate, the bills go to a conference committee (made up of legislators from both sides) that irons out the details and ends up with one bill. That bill then goes back to the House and Senate to be voted on once again.

  9. The Governor signs the legislation into law, or it is vetoed and sent back to the legislature.

So, as you can see, it is a long road to passage, but if there is energy and willingness to move it forward, the process can go relatively quickly. We can all help to energize legislation by contacting our members of the legislature, our County Commissioners who may talk to our Maryland legislators, and by writing letters to the editor of the local paper. It is not as hard as you think!

Other bills that Plastic Free QAC will be watching:

Single-Use Plastic Straw Use in the Food Service Industry, which Del. Love plans to reintroduce in 2021

Beverage Container Deposit Program also to be reintroduced by Del. Love

Maryland Paint Stewardship Program, expected to be reintroduced by Del. Boyce

Prohibition on Purposefully Releasing Balloons into the Air, Del. Hartman and Sen. Lam (As you know, QAC already passed such a bill last year!)

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