An attempt in the Illinois Senate to override Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of a plastic bag regulation bill failed 24-23-2, essentially killing the measure.
I was an early opponent of the bill, and my commentary in the Chicago Tribune summarized my concerns:
In March, the state Senate quietly passed legislation constructing a burdensome new regulatory system on the manufacture, retail use and recycling of plastic bags and film. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Terry Link, a Lake Bluff Democrat, and Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat. The bill calls for fines if these rules are broken.
Beginning next summer, plastic bag manufacturers seeking to sell their product in Illinois will be required to register with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, pay an annual $500 registration fee and print their company name on every bag. These regulations apply to any plastic bag manufacturer doing business in Illinois, whether it’s based in the state or not.
Manufacturers also would be required to develop a bag collection and recycling plan, open up that plan for regular public comment and respond to each comment in writing.
Next, manufacturers would need to launch a public awareness campaign and conduct “due diligence” on vendors contracted to help with the collection, transportation or processing of recycled material. To top it all off, they also would be required to regularly report back to the state on these activities with demonstrated improvements in recycling rates.
Starting in 2014, Illinois retailers — megastores and mom-and-pop places around the corner — will be forbidden from purchasing plastic bags from manufacturers that don’t meet the bill’s strenuous requirements. In 2015, stores would be banned from purchasing bags that didn’t “strive” to be made of 30 percent recycled plastic.
Don’t like it? Tough. Any manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler or retailer violating the measure is liable for a $1,000 penalty.
Another issue was the potential cost to state taxpayers for regulatory enforcement – a fiscal note, or “price tag,” for the legislation was conspicuously missing any numbers.
I wasn’t the only one up in arms. Small business leaders – like Don Fisher of Fisher Container Corp. in Buffalo Grove – also spoke out.
Although the bill passed both the House and the Senate, Quinn vetoed it after hearing from a young girl opposed to the bill’s prohibition on local plastic bag bans. Although I don’t agree with his reasoning, I’m still thankful he vetoed the measure.
Proponents could try to pass a modified version of the bill next year, and my advice to them is simple: Keep taxpayer dollars out of it and don’t engage in protectionist rent-seeking. If you want to prohibit local bans on plastic bags, be upfront with your intentions and don’t cloak them in a government-enforced recycling scheme.