On Wednesday, January 24, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan pointed out that Governor Andrew Cuomo cannot actual fulfill his promise to fix the plastic bag problem in New York.
In February 2017, Cuomo signed a bill blocking New York City from placing a fee on disposable bags, which a new city law intended to do. Shoppers would have had to pay retailers, with some exceptions, five cents for each disposable bag they received. When it came time to enact the bill, Cuomo promised environmentalists that he would create a task force to develop a statewide solution.
Although his task force was created, it provided no actual recommendations and merely a list of options. The report was publicly disavowed by one especially outraged environmentalist.
Crain’s News reports, “Flanagan said at a Crain’s breakfast forum that he absolutely hates bag fees, which we can safely assume means he also hates bag bans. Nothing hated by the Senate majority leader becomes state law, so the task force was merely a political exercise. It also means the city might have to wait until Republicans lose control of the Senate to get consumers in the habit of taking reusable bags when they shop. That could happen in the November election, but it could also be many years from now. And even if Flanagan’s party is ousted from the upper chamber, the city could be stuck with its eminently solvable disposable-bag problem because the Democratic-controlled Assembly also hates bag fees (though not as much as Flanagan, whose chamber passed a bill to block Suffolk County’s nickel-per-bag fee, which took effect anyway Jan. 1 because the Assembly did not follow suit). With New York City churning through 10 billion bags a year, a huge amount of plastic film is going to end up in landfills, sewer grates, trees and oceans. Scientists have calculated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish.”
There is still hope that the plague of plastic bags can be resolved in the city. The bill which was signed by Cuomo does permit the City Council to pass a separate bag bill to start this year. It is unknown whether or not the state Legislature will dare to halt it again.
Corey Johnson, the new speaker for the council, voted in favor of the 2016 bill that was blocked by Albany. The new measure, which just barely passed may be too controversial for Johnson to support so early in his speakership.
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