Plastic bag bill not expected to pass in Delaware

    (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

    (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

    The chances of Delaware passing legislation charging a nickle for plastic bags before the session ends are slim.

    The 148th session of the General Assembly ends next week. House Bill 202 made it out of committee, but has yet to be heard before the full House.

    The measure would require large stores, like supermarkets and places like Target, to charge 5 cents for each plastic or paper bag.

    “The purpose of the bill,” HB 202 reads, “is to clean up our communities and watersheds, reduce storm water and trash management costs to taxpayers, and promote the health and safety of watersheds and wildlife.”

    The bill expands on Delaware’s existing plastic bag recycling program which requires those same large stores to provide in-store, plastic bag recycling bins to cut down on the number of bags being thrown out.

    House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst sponsored that bill, but said she has reservations about its new companion. 

    “Before the House votes on creating a new tax that would go directly to private businesses, I know many of our members and the constituents we serve will want to know the full impact of this program and how it will be administered,” said the Bear representative in an email. “They will want assurances that this program will successfully reduce the number of plastic bags polluting our environment.”

    With so many unanswered questions, Longhurst said she has reached out to some of the retailers, who would be impacted by the bill, seeking answers to specific questions like:

    How much money would the average store bring in as a result of the fee?
    Do you have a breakdown of how much of the funds would go toward each component of the program?
    If this program is implemented, what are your expectations for reduction in plastic bags in the first year, second year and so on?

    “I feel it is important we have answers to questions such as these before we take a vote,” said Longhurst, who helps set the House agenda with House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf. 

    HB 202’s lead sponsor is House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson, R-Fairthorne. She said the bill is not a tax since the state does not get any of the money collected as a result of the 5-cent fee. According to the bill, the stores will keep that money to pay for recycling education programs.

    In spite of bipartisan support, Hudson feared this would happen, but said she will fight to get this bill passed next session. 

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