Local legislators support statewide plastic bag ban

OLYMPIA — The three 24th District state legislators who represent Clallam and Jefferson counties said they support legislation to ban plastic carryout bags statewide and charge state residents 8 cents for the paper variety.

But a ban on plastic beverage-straws? Not so much, state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim and state Rep. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles said Friday, while Rep. Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend supports such a ban, if it were done in phases to reduce the impact on businesses.

“There’s a huge amount of plastic waste that we have to deal with,” Tharinger said. “We have to look upstream and minimize the impact.

“We need to transition to alternatives.”

The three legislators — all Democrats — represent Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern half of Grays Harbor County.

The bag ban, ESSB 5323, passed the state Senate last Tuesday and headed to the House Environment and Energy Committee on Friday as this Wednesday’s deadline approaches for bills to be passed out of their houses of origin or die.

The legislation allows recycled content paper carryout bags that contain a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled materials.

It also pre-empts local government carryout bag ordinances after Jan. 1, 2020, that impose charges of less than 10 cents per bag.

Van De Wege, Chapman and Tharinger said they appreciated the legislation’s environmental importance.

It also could have a positive impact on the timber industry, which will benefit by producing paper for more bags.

“There’s both timber value in it, and one of the best ways to sequester carbon is in trees,” Van De Wege said.

Chapman said the plastic bag ban could be good for Port Townsend Paper and for McKinley Paper Co., which announced in September that it will start production this coming September at the former Nippon Paper Industries USA mill at Ediz Hook in Port Angeles.

McKinley, which purchased the mill in March 2017, will rely on recycled product for its paper.

“Paper over plastic is better for the environment and better for my district, better for jobs in my district,” Chapman said.

The bag ban passed the state Senate 31-14, a broader margin than the 27-21 vote for the straw ban. ESSB 5077.

Van De Wege voted against the ban on plastic straws, which would prohibit straws from being provided except on request as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Business may provide straws on request after that date but must provide them on request to customers who are disabled.

Seattle enacted a ban on straws as of July 1, 2018.

The state Senate version has its first hearing Thursday in the House Committee on Environment and Energy.

“The ban on straws is going a bit too far,” Van De Wege said.

“If it doesn’t pass, I won’t be surprised.

“We’ve got to be measured in the personal impact on people’s lives.”

Chapman was not sure the straw ban had a chance in the House.

“The straw bill died in our committee,” he said.

Chapman and Tharinger said they will vote for it if it makes it to the floor.

Cascade Care

A bill for Cascade Care, a new public option for health insurance, passed out of the House by a vote of 57 to 41 Friday.

“I don’t think any other state has done it, said Tharinger, a co-sponsor of HB 1523.

“There was a lot of discussion on the floor that it would lead to single payer and socialized medicine, but that’s not true,” he said.

“It will provide an option for people facing high premiums with high deductibles.”

Tharinger said it would present a challenge for providers but that “developing this option is important.”

Chapman voted in favor of the bill. The companion bill is SB 5526, which has been placed on the state Senate calendar for a floor vote.

None of the three District 24 legislators support anti-tax initiative advocate Tim Eyman’s “Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs” initiative, which will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.

A $30 flat fee would be set for all car tab taxes if the initiative is approved by voters.

The Legislature can put forward its own alternative to the measure on the same ballot.

Under I-976, state lawmakers would be prohibited from imposing many vehicle taxes and fees unless they are approved by voters.

Eyman was the only person to speak in favor of the initiative Feb. 26 in state Senate and House committee hearings.

“Everyone likes to pay less for car tabs. That’s certainly a desirable issue,” Van De Wege said.

“Those fees fund a lot of transportation services we rely on.”

Van De Wege said transportation dollars have been spent for suicide prevention fencing on the Eighth Street bridges in Port Angeles and First Street upgrades in Sequim, and will help fund replacement of the Elwha River bridge on U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles.

“If we do things like continue to cut car tabs, it makes it difficult to get those projects funded,” he said.

“That would be my concern.”

Chapman said he, too, is against the initiative.

He said Sound Transit is relying heavily on car tab tax increases that voters there approved.

“They voted for Sound Transit, and they are paying for it,” he said.

“I’m not going to overturn their will or their projects.”

Chapman cited transportation improvements that make it easier for North Olympic Peninsula residents to attend events in Seattle, such as University of Washington Huskies sporting events.

Work to relieve transportation in the Interstate 5 corridor would be ground to a halt if I-976 is approved, he added.

“That’s not good policy.”

Said Tharinger: “This is the problem with initiatives and particularly the problem with Eyman initiatives.

“Until he writes a budget for a city or a county or a state that looks at costs, he has little credibility.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this story.

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