In a slap in the face to New York City, the State Senate on Tuesday afternoon passed a bill that would bar the city from instituting a five cent fee on the distribution of plastic bags at local stores.

New York City had been discussing the possibility of a bag fee for several years. In May, the City Council narrowly voted in favor of tacking on a five cent fee for each non-reusable paper or plastic bag that a consumer takes at a shop. The bill was originally intended to go into effect this past October, but the Council voted to delay implementation until February 15 after State Senator Simcha Felder, who represents parts of South Brooklyn, introduced a bill to place a statewide prohibition on bag taxes. In an attempt to salvage the tax, the bill’s supporters agreed to hash out further details with state legislators opposed to the bill, with the goal of negotiating a mutually acceptable policy.

Felder's bill was worded such that it would "prohibit bag taxes or fees in cities with a population of one million or more." (This would only apply to New York City, since it's the only city in New York with one million people).

The bill passed 42-18 after a contentious debate on the senate floor, during which several senators for NYC spoke in favor of "home rule," while opponents of the bill said it was an illegal tax and a power grab.

Senator Liz Krueger, who represents the Upper East Side, challenged Felder on the floor, arguing that the state shouldn't meddle in the city's business. "Why should we override history, precedent, perhaps the constitution," Krueger said, continuing, "take an action where this house overrides a local government's law applying only to itself?"

Krueger argued that because the bag fee would not be collected by the city, it could not be considered a tax and thus would not run afoul on state law that prohibits municipalities from unilaterally instituting local taxes.

Felder, unmoved, said the fee would clearly constitute a tax and that the state legislature had a responsibility to ensure that localities adhere to state law. "New York City can't come along and come up with this new creature," he said.

He expressed apparent frustration with Krueger's attempts to dispute his claims. "I have to tell you, I never had any patience in school to listen to anybody," he said. "And you're no different."

Several other senators, including Diane Savino of Brooklyn and James Sanders of Queens, questioned why the City Council did not direct money collected from the fee toward environmental programs. (It is unclear how such a policy could be achieved, given that the city would not be collecting any of the money, and that collecting money would seem to constitute a tax.)

"They know the City Council does not have that power," City Council Member Brad Lander, who sponsored the city bill, told Gothamist. "How disingenuous to use that complaint when refusing to put forward that policy."

The bag fee, which was originally proposed to be ten cents, is not a tax; rather, it goes directly to the owner of the store. The fee would not be assigned on tags used to separate packaged raw meats from other foods, nor would it cover bags for prescription medications or takeout. Individuals who make SNAP or WIC transactions would also be exempted from paying the fees.

"The data shows that low-income people are just as capable as middle-income or high-income people of bringing reusable bags," Lander said.

Advocates of the fee system have argued that it would cut bag usage by 60 percent, saving the city $12.5 million in sanitation fees. Plastic bags have a range of harmful environmental effects—they can become ocean debris, harm wildlife, and clog up the city's waste stream.

This past weekend, Lander issued a blistering statement calling upon state legislators to avoid meddling with the city’s policies.

"With Trump and the GOP Congress rolling back climate protections and bullying cities, it would be shameful for Albany to join them. Don't they have more important work to do?" Lander stated.

"For Albany legislators who want to avoid paying the bag fee, we have a simple suggestion: Bring reusable bags. (We will be glad to provide them.)"

The City Council was polarized over the original bill, which passed 28-20 and was supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Back in May, Queens Republican Eric Ulrich made a speech on the Council floor attacking it as a distraction. "We have an affordable housing crisis, and yet here we are worried about plastic bags," he said. "What are we going to do with people who walk their dogs? Rubber gloves are too hands-on. I don't know what to tell the dog owners in my district."

(Antonio Reynoso, who represents Bushwick, called this argument "full of dog poop." He said that excess waste must be transported by truck out of the city, increasing air pollution along heavily trafficked routes.)

The bill will now head to the State Assembly, where parallel legislation is being considered. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has previously expressed concern with the city bill. If it were to pass the Assembly, it is unclear whether Governor Cuomo would sign it. But given that the city wants it, it would sure be tempting.