Columbia lawmakers react to bill that would prohibit city bag bans, fees
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Columbia lawmakers react to bill that would prohibit city bag bans, fees

Date: February 10, 2015
By: Steven Anthony
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Columbia may be the first city in Missouri to ban single-use plastic bags and most of the city's legislative delegation is against the proposed ban.

Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer said the city has yet to show the need for the ban.

"It seems ill-advised and arbitrary to me," Schaefer said.

The issue of Columbia's proposed bag ban came to a head during a House Energy and Environment Committee hearing Tuesday, Feb. 10.

Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Jefferson County, introduced a bill that would prohibit any city or municipality from imposing a plastic bag ban or fee.

A lot of criticism was directed at Columbia's proposed ban during the hearing and some of that came from Americans for Prosperity Deputy State Director Rachel Payton.

"The city of Columbia is getting in the way of the consumer and the retailer and we are asking the state to let the consumer have a choice and not allow the city to get in the way of our choice," Payton said.

Opponents of the bill and proponents of Columbia's proposed measure point to the issue of local control. 

"I am concerned at any point where the state government tries to come in and limits the local control on an issue such as this," Democratic Rep. Kip Kendrick said.  

Kendrick did not say whether or not Columbia City Council members should support the bag ban.

"I haven't researched it enough to know how I stand on that issue," Kendrick said.

Rep. Caleb Rowden supports Shaul's bill.

"I certainly don't believe it's the job of the Columbia City Council to tell a private business what they can or can't do and what bags they can or can't use," Rowden said.

Rowden says he opposes Columbia's proposed bag ban and says they lack the authority to pass the ordinance.

"Ultimately I think if they pass it, it gets thrown out in court," Rowden said. "I'm not sure it matters in the long run."

Rep. Chuck Basye represents the western part of Columbia and he is supportive of Shaul's bill.

"I think the premise [of the bill] is perfectly fine," Basye said.

He also advised the city council to not pass the bag ban.

"We ought to leave it exactly as it is right now," Basye said.

Schaefer said the council must convince residents the bag ban is the right thing to do.

"I think the case they have to make is that somehow, from a public policy perspective, the cost that's going to get passed on to customers at those stores, is with the harm they're trying to prevent," Schaefer said.

Schaefer also said there are other pressing issues the city should address.

"I really don't think it's that big of a problem," Schaefer said. "I think crime is a much bigger issue in Columbia. I think the conditions of roads are a much bigger issue in Columbia and frankly, I would like to see them address some of those things that are core governmental functions before they get to plastic bags."

Republican Rep. Caleb Jones and Rep. Stephen Webber did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

The city council could vote on the proposed ban as early as their meeting on Monday, Mar. 2.