Thursday, December 09, 2021

Lehigh County Planning a Sneak Plastic Bag Fee

Last night, I was in Hoboken, N.J., watching DeSales Bulldogs Men's Basketball Team go 9-0 for the first time since 2009 during a game in which 13 different DeSales players put points on the board against Stevens Institute of Technology. I am sure that many of you are attending parties, Christmas dinners or shopping at this time of year. While we're living our lives, Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners is planning a Christmas present of its own. Last night, lameduck Percy Dougherty introduced an ordinance that will require most retail merchants impose a $0.10 fee for every purchase that requires a plastic bad. In 18 months, the fee shoots up to $0.15. Merchant will be required to forward the collected fees to county coffers every four months. SNAP beneficiaries are exempt, but merchants have no discretion to waive the fee for anyone else. Merchants who fail to collect this fee can be fined $300 and sent to the county hoosegaw for up to 90 days. 

Usually, there's a two-week interval between the time an ordinance is introduced and adopted. But because of the holidays, Lehigh's Board is going to ram this through on December 15, hoping no one notices.  

During a time in which most small businesses have been struggling to stay afloat, this fee is a slap across their face.

I have serious reservations about the legality of this proposed ordinance. It notes that the HRC gives the county the right to adopt ordinances. It also notes that the Pa Constitution guarantees he right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment

. But it fails to state precisely howa plastic bag fee effectuates this right. Lehigh County has no health department and really has no police power. That is the province of the cities, townships and boroughs.

During a time in which people are fed up with face mask and vaccine mandates, this latest government intrusion appears to be an over-reach that really will have no effect on the harms it desires to prevent.

By the time I learned of this measure, it was too late for me to tune into the meeting to find out what, if anything, happened. But I thought you should know. 

When I recently said that newspapers do us a disservice by failing to cover the Lehigh Valley's largest governments, this is exactly what I meant. 

UPDATED 8 AM: I have just been informed that this proposed ordinance was tabled lastnight. That's hardly reassuring. It is now old business and any member can now ask that it be untabled.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that DeSales beat SIT. I went to SIT. Our basketball team, or any sports team, eh was never very good.

Anonymous said...

where is the great Armstrong If he is what he says he is--he will stop this.

Anonymous said...

This is nothing more than a money grab. Hope it is rejected. ALL of the added costs to administer will be passed down to the customer. It is an entry to a brand new Lehigh County Retail Sales Tax at some point in the future.

Less informed citizens will probably scream “Let the store owner cover the added costs, or to pay for an all paper bag operation. They make plenty of money already!” The reality is that’s not how things work. The shopper pays the fee.

Anonymous said...

It was tabled bc it didn’t have anywhere near enough support

Anonymous said...

Lehigh County commissioners, especially our little friend Percy, are extremely concerned that one of those single-use plastic bags may be tied over their head by outraged citizens, who will surely vote against their corpses at the next election.

Anonymous said...

this guy is like that so called New York mayor--these politicians always show their true colors.

Anonymous said...

Many of our local stores have special bins at their entrances to "RECYCLE" plastic bags, etc. and like many responsible shoppers we recycle. It is obvious that this issue hasn't carefully been thought out. It is unenforceable and ill-concieved legislation. It should die on its own merits. Something has to be done about the throw-away plastic problem in this Country but this isn't it. If the Commissioners really care they would have cloth bags manufactured with advertising on it promoting the non-use of plastic and phone numbers for all County Agencies promoting County services that are available to the public. What a great public cooperative effort for all citizens to partake. With the money wasted in state and local government I am sure they can find money to promote the use of cloth bags and provide a great public service by supplying the bags at cost or even paying for the bags out of taxpayers money. Count me in.
Where do you come up with these great ideas Bernie.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Stevens killed us two years ago. Nice campus

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you all we learned is they're a sneaky underhanded bunch.

Anonymous said...

Maine has banned plastic bag use and has gone to paper statewide. Each merchant asks if a customer wants their items bagged or not. A 5 cent charge is added per bag. For self checkout, the user enters number of bags used and the fee is applied. There are no plastic bags blowing around. I found no inconvenience with going bagless and had no issue paying the fee for the bag. Members only warehouse stores are bagless. After participating in a number of community cleanup projects, I personally have no problem with a bagless proposition or even a small fee, especially if the money collected is going to Environmwntal Sustainability efforts.

Anonymous said...

This bill is dead. Tabled legislation dies at the end of the session (Dec). It would need to be reintroduced. Sure, anybody can introduce something, just like anybody can file a lawsuit. That doesn’t mean it will pass.

Anonymous said...

Good God has the entire Lehigh Valley gone nuts! This is the same nonsense that nut Zirinski pushed in Northampton County. Screw th little guy politics.

Carl said...

Humans brought this on themselves. Take notice how many people toss stuff on the ground or fail to notice they have dropped something. Or just don't care. Self centered dopes they are.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This bill is dead. Tabled legislation dies at the end of the session (Dec)."

I am far less sanguine than you that tabled legislation dies at the end of the calendar year. I am aware of nothing establishing legislative sessions in county government. This is really problematic bc I think it can be taken off the table with zero input from anyone, to say nothing of the merchants that woud be so negatively impacted. Here are my problems:

1) It was a stealth attack done when no one was paying attention.
2) Absolutely zero input was sought from merchants.
3) Three of the Comm'rs who would have voted on this are lame ducks.
4) The exception for SNAP recipients violates the uniformity clause.
5) The money collected goes into no established fund to fight pollution, but instead is dumped into the general fund.
6) There is no discretion provided to merchants.
7) Speaking of science, there is no evidence that a plastic bag fee would do anything to reduce plastic pollution or climate change.
8) I doubt there is legal authority of this measure. Under the rationale in the proposed ordinance, Comm'rs could require us all to crush our teeth every day and demand reports from our dentists. They could require that we all get annual checkups and demand reports from our doctors. They could make vaccines mandatory. '
9) There is no statutory basis for this ill-conceived measure.

Anonymous said...

Government in today's world does not work for the good of the people.

Anonymous said...

That campus sure is beautiful, you know?? I've sat on the on-campus benches already to just take in the amazing views of Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

you can have all the single use plastic bags that people in their cars throw out the window on the lawn and road frontage. plus the beer cans, plus the mcdonald's etc., plus the trash containing stuff you don't want to know about. i pick up the stuff. i see what people do. selfish, uncaring, clean car maybe but no care for anything or anyone else. they think no one sees.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:19, it is gorgeous and the view of Manhattan at night is breathtaking. Plus, Hoboken is much prettier than I had thought.

Anonymous said...

You all are talking about the bag tax. There is a tire tax, a waste oil tax, a recycle tax and so many other hidden taxes that get charge but are lumped under tax on your bill. Sometime ask you auto mechanic for a tax break down and other hidden fees buried in your bill.
I stumbled into it yesterday when I was talking to my mother-in laws mechanic and he went on a rant about all the hidden fees on top of parts both coming in and going out of his operation.

Anonymous said...

Although from Bethlehem, I am living in a city with a plastic bag fee right now. It changes almost nothing about how I do my shopping other than that I come with re-usable bags. There is less litter around town than before the bag fee, and customers pay it, not businesses. It doesn't affect businesses one way or the other, as customers just have 15c added to their bill if they need a bag. This is a total non-issue and pretending it is some kind of attack on personal liberty is extremely weird. Frankly, it's weird that bags were free to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I think there should be a McDonalds, tax and a Burger king tax and beer waste tax for every piece of packaging used on top of whatever is currently paid for wrapper, bag, frie container, beer can, beer case, etc. And it should be like 20%. Then we can use that to pay people to go around and pick up all the trash create by these items.

Anon said...

I like the idea of reducing the use of these plastic bags that wind up in our oceans and harm all kinds of life. It's better done through education and appeal rather than the heavy hand of government.
The proposed ordinance was tabled because the main environmental group that was supporting it pulled their support. They think it's an illegal tax. Many of the commissioners (to their credit) thought the penalties were too draconian- $300 fines for each offence and up to 90 days in jail.
Why should the fees go to the county instead of being used to help the business owners who are tasked with collection?
My understanding is that under their rules a tabled proposed ordinance has to be reintroduced as something new when the council starts their new year in 2022.
Percy has assurances from some holdover commissioners that they won't forget to reintroduce this in 2022.
Hopefully, they will present it as something that the average citizen and business owner can understand and support instead of a top-down elitist mandate.