BILL SUMMARY for SB09-156
SENATE COMMITTEE ON BUSINESS, LABOR AND TECHNOLOGY
|Moved prepared Amendment L.001 (Attachment I). Th
Moved to refer Senate Bill 09-156, as amended, to
|Pass Without Objection
03:26 PM -- Senate Bill 09-156
Senator Veiga presented Senate Bill 09-156. Beginning September 1, 2009, through June 30, 2012, the bill requires consumers to pay a fee of $0.06 for every plastic bag provided by a retail store. Stores subject to the fee are limited to those with at least 10,000 square feet and with gross annual sales of $1.0 million or more. Beginning July 1, 2012, stores are prohibited from providing plastic bags. Senator Veiga discussed her reasons for sponsoring the bill, and cited data regarding the use of plastic bags in relation to recycling, landfills, and litter. She discussed the societal costs of improper disposal of plastic bags and different approaches to combat the problem. She explained why the bill is seeking a ban and described her reasons for including a fee. She indicated that the opinions of interested parties had convinced her to strike the fee. She distributed prepared Amendment L.001 and an accompanying fiscal assessment of the amendment (Attachment I).
Responding to questions from Senator Mitchell, Senator Veiga discussed the environmental impact of plastic bags compared to paper bags. Discussion continued between Senator Mitchell and Senator Veiga concerning the possibility of a shift to paper bag use if the bill were passed. Senator Veiga discussed data indicating that paper bags were less environmentally harmful than plastic bags in the long term. Senator Veiga added that the intent of the legislation is to encourage shoppers to use a permanent, reusable bag. Senator Mitchell stated that free choices and the price of landfills should guide shoppers' decisions rather than a mandate by the state. Senator Veiga responded that the impact of plastic bags should be looked at from a global perspective. She added that it is no less convenient for a shopper to carry a reusable bag.
Senator Harvey discussed studies that indicate that plastic bags are more environmentally friendly than paper bags, and asked why the bill did not outlaw both kinds of bags. Senator Veiga stated that plastic bags are more harmful in the long-term, and addressed the overall use of plastic in society. Senator Harvey argued that plastic bags are used more because they are more convenient and cost-efficient. Discussion continued between Senator Harvey and Senator Veiga. Senator Veiga added that events before the ban goes into place will educate consumers not to shift to paper. Senator Harvey stated that grocery stores will still offer paper bags because they are cheaper, and that the bill will push people towards bags with environmental problems of their own.
Senator Foster remarked on the number of people wishing to testify and noted that Senator Veiga had already repeated her arguments several times. Responding to a question from Senator Heath, Senator Veiga stated that the bill would only limit plastic bags provided at the point-of-checkout, and would not limit plastic bags used in the produce section.
Senator Mitchell made comments about biodegradabilty within landfills. Senator Veiga noted that the bill was meant to change behavior. She stated that in order to be as minimally intrusive as possible, the bill only targeted the largest sources of plastic bags. Senator Mitchell responded that the bill targeted the masses but allowed niche and boutique stores to continue to provide plastic bags to upscale shoppers. Senator Veiga disagreed with his assessment.
The following individuals testified:
03:57 PM -- Mary Lou Chapman, representing the Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association, testified in opposition to the bill. She discussed existing reward programs for customers who bring their own bags, and expressed disappointment that the association had not been included in the discussions about the bill. She described programs to recycle plastic bags and noted concerns with the bill's definition of "store." She stated that the bill should be more comprehensive and that its language should be clarified. Ms. Chapman indicated that she had been asked by the Colorado Competitive Council (C3), to voice its opposition on the basis of the bill's discriminatory provisions.
Senator Scheffel asked Ms. Chapman to address the history of plastic bag usage. He specifically asked about past programs promoting the use of plastic bags, and questioned whether those programs had been initiated by legislation or by market forces. Ms. Chapman discussed programs from the 1970s that promoted plastic bags due to their availability and due to concerns about the environmental impact of paper bags. Responding to further questions from Senator Scheffel, Ms. Chapman expressed her concerns that shoppers may use reusable bags that have become contaminated. She stated that the association would like to be part of any efforts to educate shoppers and to change behavior.
Senator Harvey, Ms. Chapman, and Senator Heath discussed portions of the bill relating to franchise agreements. Other members of the committee made additional comments.
04:13 PM -- Chris Howes, representing the Colorado Retail Council, testified in opposition to the bill. He described his association and expressed concerns with customers who may put meat and produce in the same bag as clothing. He discussed a plastic bag tax in Ireland, commonly known as PlasTax. He noted that when PlasTax went into effect, the purchase of plastic bags, such as garbage bags, skyrocketed. Mr. Howes described recycling efforts and stated that his association wishes to be part of any solution. He indicated that a ban on plastic bags would not be a good solution because it will drive shoppers to use paper bags. He added that smaller stores' bags are as harmful to the environment as the bags at larger stores. He responded to a question from Senator Harvey concerning whether or not Home Depot provides plastic bags.
04:18 PM -- Alexx Hoholik, Laura Abelman, Jonathan (J.J.) Shpall, and Maya Booth, Kent Denver School students, testified in favor of the bill. Mr. Shpall discussed the students' reasons for proposing the bill. He described the environmental effects of plastic bags and provided information on other countries, U.S. states, and counties that have considered eliminating plastic bags.
Ms. Booth addressed the efforts to recycle plastic bags and provided reasons why the bill should be passed. She stated that recycling is energy-intensive and cost ineffective. She indicated that very few plastic bags are recycled relative to their consumption, and provided data on the amount of plastic bags consumed and recycled in the United States. She noted that efforts to recycle plastic bags were consistent with the bill's aim to reduce shoppers' reliance on plastic bags.
Ms. Abelman discussed the bill's focus on plastic rather than paper. She provided data concerning paper and plastic bags, and stated that plastic is more harmful to the environment overall than paper. She described Whole Foods' decision to stop providing plastic bags, and indicated that more than half of its shoppers switched to reusable bags. Ms. Abelman explained a "point system" for comparing the environmental effects of paper bags to the effects of plastic bags.
Ms. Hoholik discussed the removal of the $0.06 fee. She stated that consumer culture will adjust when the ban goes into effect. She discussed cities that have already banned plastic bags, and added that the three-year period before the ban goes into effect will provide time for consumers to learn about the ban. She noted that many stores are already banning plastic bags or are giving discounts to shoppers who bring their own bags. Senator Harvey relayed an anecdote about a country that calls the plastic bag its "national bird," and Ms. Booth responded with a description of a huge mass of plastic floating in the ocean. She noted that even if the effects of plastic bags aren't seen immediately on a day-to-day basis, they are there.
Senator Mitchell and Ms. Abelman discussed biodegradation in landfills. Senator Mitchell complimented the students and noted that there are other ways to change behavior aside from passing a law. Ms. Hoholik stated that passing a law was the method the students had chosen, and noted that even if it fails, more people will be aware of the issues.
Senator Tochtrop thanked the students and relayed an anecdote about a trip to Mali and its "Plastic Bag Mountain." She stated that the plastic bag problem is everywhere, and noted that the students' activism will make people think. She added that no one ever sees paper bags in trees.
Senator Foster discussed her initial skepticism about the bill and stated that the students had made compelling arguments. She compared the bill to legislation that outlawed smoking in theaters and described the learning process for using reusable bags. She asked whether there were any plastics manufacturers within Colorado, and Senator Veiga responded that the manufacturers were primarily located elsewhere.
Senator Harvey addressed Senator Foster's comments about legislation banning smoking. He stated that the analogy did not apply because the smoking laws resulted in cleaner air, whereas the unintended consequence of Senate Bill 09-156 may be an increase in environmental hazards due to the use of paper bags. Senator Foster stated that her comments had to do with the importance of an educational process and communication between generations.
Ms. Abelman addressed Senator Harvey's comments and discussed evidence that a ban would result in a shift towards reusable bags. Ms. Booth responded to Senator Harvey's comments about smoking laws. Discussion continued between Ms. Booth and Senator Mitchell concerning the impact of plastic bags. Ms. Abelman noted that plastic bags kill millions of animals each year. The students introduced their teacher, Paul Gilden.
04:52 PM -- Amy Wade, representing 3B Bags, testified in favor of the bill. She discussed her company and her experiences with Mr. Gilden and the students who had proposed the bill.
04:57 PM -- Dick Brown, representing Colorado Recycles, spoke about the bill. He stated that Colorado Recycles had a neutral position on the bill. He shared a packet of information with the committee (Attachment J). He discussed data concerning landfills. He described a study indicating that many counties have facilities to recycle plastic bags, and stated his concern that the bill would disrupt existing recycling programs. He responded to questions from Senator Mitchell.
05:09 PM -- Michele Weingarden, representing Greenprint Denver, testified regarding the bill. She described Greenprint Denver and stated that she represents a neutral position on the bill. She discussed data concerning plastic bags and steps taken by Denver to address the issue of plastic bags.
Senator Harvey discussed the amount of petroleum needed to deliver paper bags and stated that the negative unintended consequences of the bill outweigh its positive consequences.
05:16 PM -- David Allen, representing the 2009 Colorado Association of Ski Towns (CAST) Reusable Bag Challenge, testified in favor of the bill. He described his background and gave an overview of the challenge. He stated that while there is much to be said for education and voluntary compliance, studies indicate that different approaches are more successful. He noted that the bill would help consumers develop a sustainable habit. Discussion continued between Mr. Allen, Senator Mitchell, and Senator Harvey concerning the role of government in promoting the public good and controlling the free market system. The committee discussed laws pertaining to seatbelts.
05:31 PM -- Ben Prochazka, representing the Colorado Environmental Coalition, testified in favor of the bill. He discussed the educational benefits of plastic bag reduction programs, and noted that recycling is an important aspect of reduction.
05:34 PM -- Steve Scott and Rick Palkowitsh, representing the Colorado Corn Growers Association, spoke about the bill. Mr. Palkowitsh stated that the association has some misgivings about the bill and would like to suggest alternative approaches. He discussed biodegradable bags. Mr. Scott described renewable and recyclable bags produced by corn growers and requested the committee to amend the bill to allow retailers to use biodegradable products. Senator Veiga discussed biodegradable bags and the approaches of other states. She indicated that she would need additional information and would be happy to discuss the issue further outside of committee.
Senator Veiga provided closing remarks on the bill. She added that the bill addresses a part of the problem and leaves room for recycling efforts. Senator Harvey and Senator Veiga discussed the environmental impact of paper bags.
| 05:52:18 PM
|Moved to refer Senate Bill 09-156, as amended, to the Committee of the Whole. The motion passed on a 4-3 roll call vote.
Final YES: 4 NO: 3 EXC: 0 ABS: 0 FINAL ACTION: PASS
The committee adjourned.