In this time of great crisis in Albany, both houses of the state legislature have been able to come together on an important agreement to strip New York City of home rule and prevent the city from implementing its five cent fee on the distribution of plastic bags in grocery stories.
The Times reports that in the wake of the state Senate passing a bill that prevented any city of over one million people (New York City being the only such city in the state) from imposing bag taxes or fees, the Assembly has crafted a different bill stopping the fee that both houses have agreed to pass. Under the terms of the Assembly bill, the fee, which was set to go into effect on February 15th, will be delayed until January 2018. At that time, the City Council will be allowed to revisit the idea of actually instituting the fee.
Lawmakers opposed to the bill have suggested its a backdoor tax on the poor, and have also suggested that having to pay for plastic bags from the grocery store would leave dog owners shit out of luck when they need to clean up after the dogs. Bag fee advocate and Bushwick City Councilmember called said argument, "a pile of dog poop" at a previous City Council hearing.
According to the News, the Assembly and state Senate will vote on the bill on Monday, and the terms of the bill actually prevent the City Council from automatically implementing the fee after the moratorium is over. Instead, the council will have to vote on the fee again if legislators want to implement it. While Governor Cuomo hasn't taken a position on the bill, Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn told the paper he believes there are enough votes in both houses to overturn a veto.
Advocates for the bag fee have argued that it would reduce the usage of plastic bags in the city by 60%, which would in turn save the city $12.5 million in sanitation fees as well as help to prevent more plastic bags from getting caught in drainage systems or become floating ocean garbage.
Advocates for the bill in the City Council put out a press release yesterday asking the Assembly not to consider getting involved in overturning the city's law. They argued that they took to make the law more equitable to the poor, that other municipalities in New York have instituted the same five cent fee, and that the legislature's bill could violate the New York State Constitution's prohibition "on 'special laws' that affect only one jurisdiction in the state."
With the news that the Assembly joined the movement to overturn the city's law anyway, advocates are now holding a rally on Sunday afternoon on the steps of City Hall in support of the law.