Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News reported that Dallas city councilmembers had voted overwhelmingly to repeal its controversial 5-cent fee on single-use plastic bags. The reason? According to the DMN:
“Keeping the nickel fee wasn’t much of an option after the city attorney advised that it probably wouldn’t stand up in court.” [emphasis mine]
It would seem that, after much public outcry and a lot of legislation filed at the statehouse, a majority of Dallas’ city council, on the advice of their attorney, reached the same conclusion that the Foundation has long argued—that city ordinances imposing single-use bag restrictions likely violate existing state laws, meaning that they had overreached. Those provisions are explored further in then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s August 2014 advisory opinion.
Dallas’ about-face on plastic bag restrictions raises an intriguing question. If Dallas—the largest city in Texas to have enacted this sort of consumer tax—is willing to walk back its decision in the face of mounting public pressure and a new lawsuit, then could this same sort of progress be realized in other cities too?
I think so.
Efforts are already to educate council members in other communities with similar restrictions about both the policy problems and the legal challenges surrounding this issue. It may take a little time, but I would expect that the momentum favors conservative reformers.
While plastic bag bans and fees may seem like something of a niche issue, it’s representative of a much larger problem: local government overreach. Under the guise of “local control,” Texas’ local governments have enacted a whole slew of questionable policies dealing with everything from taxation to regulation to annexation and more. It’s time that conservatives began to address these issues in earnest.