Legislation which prevents local governments from banning plastic bags is heading to the South Carolina Senate floor.
The Senate Labor, Commerce & Industry Committee advanced the bill Thursday, despite the objections from coastal towns who say the bags are trashing up popular beaches. But supporters say they see the bans as counter to free market principles and would complicate supply lines for retail chains which would have to treat those towns differently.
“I think most of us agree that the plastic pollution is a real problem,” State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said. “I think the disagreement is over how you address it.”
The proposal, which passed the House earlier this year, grandfathers in already-approved bans in communities such as Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, and Beaufort County. The town of Mount Pleasant became the latest coastal government to ban the bags earlier this week, but would not be exempted. The committee defeated an amendment that would give municipal governments until February 2019 to pass bans, if they so chose.
Opponents say it should be up to individual communities. “Local communities are effectively tackling plastic pollution with local bans. They’re making good progress,” Coastal Conservation League program director Emily Cedzo said. “But special interests and industry lobbyists have infiltrated our State House. House Bill 3529 is a rejection of local rights and the will of the people.”
The measure will reach the Senate floor last week. Since it passed the House in February, it met this week’s “crossover deadline” for legislation to be approved by at least one chamber in order to have a realistic chance in the other.