On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on SB 536 — the “Ban the Bag” bill. Supported by a coalition of environmentalists, recyclers and groceries, the bill is sponsored by two Democrats — Sen Mark Hass and Rep Ben Cannon — and two Republicans — Sen Jason Atkinson and Rep Vic Gilliam. The hearing room was packed and testimony lasted over two hours.
Committee Chair Jackie Dingfelder called witnesses in alternating groups of for and against. The first group covered the spectrum of recyclers, groceries and environmentalists, the main proponents of this bill:
If the name seems familiar, Gilliam is the brother of bill co-sponsor and State Rep Vic Gilliam (R, HD 18).
One of the strengths of this bill is that it does include the grocers of Oregon, including Safeway, Fred Meyers and other major players. As Gilliam states, without a coherent statewide policy on plastic bags, grocers would soon face a hodge-podge of regulations as various municipalities passed their own rules. In the Metro area, he asserted, stores and consumers might have to deal with three layers of rules: Metro, county and city.
On the opposition side, apart from a scare-mongering cameo from Sen Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, the strike force was a Texas company that produces the bags:
The video spares viewers from Ferrioli’s gruesome, and inaccurate, recitation of the various biological horrors to be found in reusable plastic bags. Daniels covers as much ground as he can in his presentation: outsourcing of jobs, foreign oil, lead-filled bags, biological death in every reusable bag, taxation, the loss of thousands of jobs (none in Oregon), and the abolition of American Freedoms.
The videos are presented without commentary; I refuse to blog in like manner. But the political facts are clear in re: SB 536:
- local bag bans are coming, so a statewide policy is necessary to have consistent regulations
- Oregonians support efforts to clean up the environment even if it involves a certain amount of cost and inconvenience
- amazing coalitions are possible on important issues
- corporations will pull out the stops to protect profits