Bill could challenge Austin's bag ban

 Two-years ago Austinites said goodbye to single-use paper and plastic bags thanks to a city ordinance.

"Just remembering to bring the bags to the store is a problem for me, so I usually end up buying the bags when I get here," said Keith Morris who moved from El Paso to Austin in October.

Currently customers can buy reusable thick plastic or paper bags.

"In the beginning it was a pain, but I'm used to it. Now I have so many bags and I don't mind it. I'm happy. It's a lifestyle change and you just get used to it," said Angela O'Donnell who has lived in Austin for the last six years.  

The city ordinance banning single-use bags is under fire by one state lawmaker who said Austin's bag ban is not just a pain, it's illegal.

"The current law is a health and safety code law, which actually makes it illegal to impose a surcharge on containers like Dallas has and it also says bag bans like Austin's for waste management purposes are also illegal," said Rep. Matt Irving, (R) Irving.

Section 361.0961 of the Texas Health and Safety Code says a local government cannot "adopt an ordinance, rule, or regulation to: prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law."

"The attorney general in August clarified that a bag is a container under existing law," said Rinaldi.

House Bill 1939, filed Wednesday by Rinaldi, will clarify that existing law by stating that it specifically applies to bags.  

Rinaldi said Austin's bag ban could have a negative impact on businesses.  

"In addition to raising prices, you are making it more burdensome for consumers to purchase large amounts of goods. So it certainly affects sales to the businesses, it has affected sales to the businesses, it increases shoplifting, the businesses are being hurt by it, which will have an effect on jobs," said Rinaldi.

Rinaldi also isn't sold on the idea that reusable bags will help protect the environment.

 "Ninety percent of people reuse the single-use plastic bags and they take about 1/10th of the landfill space as multiple use bags which are often single used," said Rinaldi.

"I have noticed that there are not a whole lot of plastic bags rolling down the sidewalk and things like that," said Morris.

The way it's currently written, Rinaldi's bill would take effect September 1.  The soonest the Texas House could vote on the bill is the end of April. First, it will go to committee.

Governor Greg Abbott has said he supports getting rid of bag bans in the state.

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