Ban on plastic bags comes close to reality in a 3rd state

(Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and fellow Democrats who control the Legislature have reached a deal to make New York the third state with a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags as they worked to finalize budget agreements, officials said Friday.

The ban would prohibit grocery stores from providing plastic bags for most purchases, something California has been doing since a statewide ban was approved in 2016. Hawaii has an effective statewide ban, with all its counties imposing their own restrictions.

Supporters of such bans say they keep plastic bags from entering the environment and causing damage to ecosystems and waterways.

“With this smart, multi-pronged action New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers,” Cuomo, who proposed a ban in his $175 billion budget proposal, said in a statement Friday.

New York’s ban wouldn’t take effect until next March. The plan also calls for allowing local governments the option to impose a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with 3 cents going to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and 2 cents kept by local governments.

Environmental conservation advocates had also been pushing for a statewide fee for paper bags as a way to encourage wider consumer use of reusable bags.

Nonetheless, Patrick McClellan, state policy director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, said his group was “thrilled” that the bag ban appears headed for passage.

“Plastic bags pollute our waterways and streets, and both plastic and paper bags contribute to the solid waste crisis and cost taxpayers money,” he said. “While the best policy would be a ban on plastic bags coupled with a statewide fee on other disposable bags, this agreement represents a tremendous step forward.”

Lawmakers are facing a Monday deadline on a budget agreement. Negotiations on other aspects of Cuomo’s proposed $175 billion spending plan are continuing Friday, with the Senate and Assembly expected to start passing budget bills Sunday ahead of the April 1 start of the state’s 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Lawmakers have also agreed on a measure that would close up to three yet-to-be-determined state prisons. Cuomo announced last month he wanted to reduce the number of facilities because of the state’s declining inmate population.

The budget will also contain a provision requiring employers to give workers three hours off to vote on election day.

Another provision set for the budget would impose congestion tolls to ease traffic in the busiest parts of Manhattan and fund transit improvements, but details are still being discussed.

Negotiations are also continuing on a proposal to tax luxury second homes in Manhattan worth more than $5 million. The option now being considered would impose a one-time tax paid when the properties are sold, Cuomo told reporters Friday.

Revenue from the tax would go to transit.

Other pending issues still being negotiated included criminal justice reform and public financing of political campaigns.

One of the other big issues of the year — the legalization of recreational marijuana — will not be included in the budget. Cuomo said Friday that lawmakers need more time to work out the details to regulation.

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