South Carolina towns would no longer be able to ban plastic bags or Styrofoam containers under a bill now headed to the state Senate.
The state House on Wednesday approved the proposal in a 73-41 vote. House Republicans used the bill to target coastal towns such which have begun passing bag bans in an attempt to reduce litter along their beaches.
But opponents argued local governments should be able to settle the issue without state interference. “I don’t think we should be in the business of telling our towns and counties what they can and cannot do, when they have constitutionally decided to do something and have passed it,” State Rep. Cezar McKnight, D-Kingstree, said on the House floor.
The bill will go to the Senate after another procedural vote Thursday.
Conservation groups lobbied hard against the measure, which was promoted by plastic industry groups who argue it would lead stores to offer more expensive bags. “Local governments and citizens should have the right to address local problems, like plastic pollution, with local solutions,” Coastal Conservation League Land, Water and Wildlife Program Director Emily Cedzo said in a statement.
However, supporters said the state has the right to regulate commerce. “The law says this is not (municipal governments’) responsibility… this is the responsibility of the state and federal government,” State Rep. Garry Smith, R-Simpsonville, said. “Why would we pass a law that allows them to go beyond that?”
The bill as it is currently written would grandfather in those municipalities — such as Isle of Palms, Hilton Head and Beaufort — which have already passed bans into law.