WASHINGTON — A bill to tax plastic bags in Virginia has been passed over by a state’s senate committee, for good.
The bill, authored by Sen. J. Chapman Petersen of Fairfax County, was killed in committee last week. The proposed legislation would have placed a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic bags for areas in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed region.
“It was ironic to me because we have talked a lot about water quality this year,” Petersen said.
He said several conversations among lawmakers this past session centered on pollution making its way into the waterways of Northern Virginia.
Petersen said he believes the bill could have brought in $10 million or more, annually, in funds to help restore the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But the main goal, he said, was to encourage the increased use of reusable and environmentally friendly cloth bags by shoppers.
“If we raised zero dollars, that would have been fine with me,” Petersen said.
In a 10–4 party line vote, the bill was passed over indefinitely by the senate finance committee last week.
Some opponents of the bill feared it would become a burden on small businesses, which would be required to enforce it. Petersen disagreed and said businesses would have received a portion of the tax money earned off of plastic bag use.
“The only people that would lose are those consumers that use plastic bags over and over again,” Petersen said.
Petersen said he plans to continue the fight. At the very least, he said he believes the attention to the subject and changing consumer preferences when it comes to plastic bags ultimately will benefit the environment.
“It’s an environmental hazard, and I think people are moving away from it anyway,” Petersen said.