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Twisting through the wind: N.H. legislative committee votes against single-use plastic bag legislation

Keng Susumpow
Flickr CC

A committee in the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted on Tuesday not to recommend a bill allowing towns to regulate the distribution of single-use plastic and paper bags.

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H.B. 1119 would include the regulation of plastic bag distribution in the powers and duties of towns, along with the ability to issue permits for tattooing facilities and the ability to regulate noise, among other items.

Rep. Laurel Stavis, a Democrat from West Lebanon, said the conversation about the bill felt like déjà vu after previous failed efforts to ban single-use plastic bags.

But Stavis said this is a different effort.

“It’s just enabling,” she said. “Cities and towns could probably do this already if they wanted to. It just would make it easier when interacting with retail outlets if there was something in statute that enabled them to do it if they so chose to do it.”

Rep. Rosemarie Rung, a Democrat from Merrimack, said she voted against a statewide ban, but wanted towns to have the ability to decide for themselves on the issue.

“I’ll pretty much bet that this would never fly in Merrimack. But I’m not going to assume I know better than other communities,” she said.

In Keene, considerations of bans on single-use plastic bags have been stopped by uncertainty around requirements for state authorization, The Keene Sentinel reported. One city councilor said he would likely propose a ban on plastic bags if the House bill passed.

Rep. Richard Lascelles, a Litchfield Republican, said he was concerned about the practicality of implementing plastic bag distribution regulations, particularly in a convenience store, where people may not have their own bags on hand.

“A convenience store, to me, would really be hit on this,” he said.

An amendment to the bill was also voted down. It would have clarified that the legislation applied only to point-of-sale bags, like grocery store checkout bags, and did not apply to plastic bags like trash bags or others sold in bulk.

A recent global survey found 75% of people want to see single-use plastics banned.

Eight states, including Connecticut, Maine and Vermont, have banned single-use plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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