Arizona Bill Would Prohibit Plastic-Bag Ordinances

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 9:40am
Updated: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 9:41am

Backed by grocery stores, restaurants and retailers, the Arizona House on Thursday voted to block cities and counties from getting in the way of the ultimate question: paper or plastic?

Senate Bill 1241 would make it illegal for any community to adopt California-style legislation which requires merchants to charge a nickel a bag when patrons do not bring their own.

That would void an existing ordinance in Bisbee and block similar proposals in Tempe and other communities. It also would forbid any kind of mandatory recycling program.

Rep. Warren Petersen said it's a matter of individual freedom.

"I understand that some people want to make the decision of 'paper or plastic' for other people. And I understand some people have an ideology of collectivism. And I respect their opinion," Petersen  said. "For me, I support individual rights and people making their own decisions."

 But Rep. Stefanie Mach said that's not looking at the whole picture.

"We assume that freedom always is at the individual level and it never infringes on the freedoms of others. And that's absolutely not true," Mach said. "So we need to start talking about what's best for the collective, our environment, our business community, our economy, and all of that together."

And Mach said people form governments - and elect local officials - to make those collective decisions.

Petersen, however, was unconvinced. He said individuals and businesses are in the best position to know what makes financial sense for them.

"They are absolutely the most concerned about their bottom line and how to best spend their money," said Petersen. "I trust them. I trust the business owner, I trust the individual, much more than I will ever trust government to micromanage how someone can save money."

The measure goes to the Senate after a final House vote.

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