You’ve probably heard about Rep. Drew Springer’s ”Shopping Bag Freedom Act” by now. Springer’s proposal to outlaw local plastic shopping bag bans has gotten plenty of attention in Texas and from national media.
Springer filed his bill days after Austin began banning plastic shopping bags earlier this month, following the environmentalist lead of cities like San Francisco. Tonight, Springer had a chance to sell his bill to the House Urban Affairs Committee. If we let cities ban plastic bags, he wondered, what else might they do away with?
In a conversation with the Observer before the hearing, the Republican freshman from Muenster said he thinks the government has “crossed the line” of what local control should allow.
“The city, I believe, has overstepped their role and my bill brings in freedoms back to the individuals to make that choice with their merchant,” he said. “So it actually creates freedom, rather than imposing more on people.”
Springer said reusable bags pose a serious health risk that could end in illness, or even death. He told the Observer that there are studies that show rising sickness due to E. coli and salmonella where the bag bans have implemented.
“From a Medicaid standpoint … the City of Austin’s bag ban will cost the state of Texas $345,000,” Springer said. “I’m going to look to make sure that if the bag ban doesn’t pass, that we find a way to make sure the City of Austin pays the taxpayers around the state for that increase of Medicaid cost.”
He said consumers he’s spoken with are inconvenienced by Austin’s bag ban. His bill would protect all Texans from such a fate.
Not all shoppers believe Springer’s bill would be protecting their interests in the face of government over-stepping their boundaries, though. Some waited all day at the Capitol to defend cities’ rights to get rid of the bags.
Debbie Krueser, who arrived ready to say her piece at 10 a.m.:
“It’s kind of strange how everybody can use the same terminology to fit their own viewpoint,” Krueser said. “Mr. Springer is correct. Texas does stand for individual rights, for local control. We want to control our own municipalities.”
Andrew Dobbs, with the Texas Campaign for the Environment, said his group opposes the bill not just because it oversteps local authority, but because banning plastic bags is good environmental policy.
“Local governments clean up bag litter, pay for recycling center facilities … maintain the storm water systems clogged by bags, dispose of wildlife killed by bags” Dobbs said, “so they should have the power to decide how to go about preventing this bag pollution.”