By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The sponsor of a controversial City Council plan for a nickel fee on all plastic and paper bags says he’s tabling the idea — at least until the fall.
Councilman Mark Squilla had proposed the five-cent fee on all bags given out by stores to customers. The measure was scheduled for a committee debate Wednesday, but Squilla decided not to go forward because not enough of his council colleagues favor the idea:
“Right now we just don’t have the support from Council as a whole.”
In other words, Squilla couldn’t come up with eight other votes needed for final passage, so he did not bother even with a committee hearing:
“I think we have to go back and try to tweak the bill a little more, to try build support among the members.”
Squilla says some of the lawmakers were concerned about the impact of the five-cent-per-bag-fee on low-income families:
“The major concern seemed to be how would supply the needy people with bags if they didn’t have them, and the cost added to their purchase. So we need to come back with a better way to supply bags.”
Another concern, he said, was that his bill covered both plastic and paper, and some thought paper bags should not be impacted:
“So I think we need to revisit those two things, and go back to the drawing board, and hopefully through the summer work out some tweaks, and hopefully come back with it in the fall.”
This marks the third time shopping bag legislation has failed to advance in City Council. In 2007 and 2009, proposals to ban plastic bags outright were introduced, but failed both times in the face of intense lobbying by the petroleum industry. Squilla says he does not believe industry lobbying played a role here, and he vows to revive the idea when Council returns from its summer recess:
“No, I don’t believe its dead at this time. I think it’s still on the table, and I think we’ll revisit it back in the fall. It’s still something that we want to try to move forward. We’ll go back to the drawing board with members of council, and see what we can add to the bill that would enable them to favor it.”
Under Squilla’s plan, three cents of each nickel fee would be kept by the store to defray costs. The remaining two cents would go to the city to fund anti-littering programs.