Ban the Bag Hearing: videos

T.A. Barnhart

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:

For more information on the bill and to follow its progress, or to help ensure it does pass, contact Environment Oregon: website or Facebook.

T.A. Barnhart writes regularly at You’ll find more videos, including interviews and excerpts of local progressive events, at his Vimeo page. And he’s on Facebook a lot!

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    Right now Oregonians use 1.7 Billion plastic bags every year, many of which end up in our oceans killing thousands of marine animals and millions of birds every year.

    What's disturbing to me is not our complete ignorance of the scope the this problem and what it means for future generations. What's disturbing to me is the way that powerful, wealthy special interests from outside Oregon talk about it: "Reusable bags are made in China! THEY'RE made out of oil!" of course they are! Since we give billions of dollars in our taxes to oil companies, EVERYTHING is made out of plastic and oil!

    As the proponents state, there is no silver bullet, but the status quo will not stand.

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    We can always count on Republican d-bags like Ferrioli to block human progress every step of the way.

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      Not a fair statement at all, particularly in this session where several Republicans have demonstrated an eagerness to work in a collaborative, bi-partisan fashion on bills like this, the state bank, even the Governor's budget.

      In terms of actual public policy, this could be one of the best sessions Oregon has seen in decades. All of it starts with the fact that our legislators are demonstrating a degree of mutual respect that others would do well to emulate.

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        to be fair to Joshua, he did specify what kind of R he was referring to. and having listened to Ferrioli's testimony, it was unpleasant. scare-mongering & other forms of dishonesty. it wasn't even his constituent he spoke for.

        that said, "d-bags" is the kind of label we should save for the comments on Oregonlive & not here....

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        Sorry Sal...just because a minority of conservatives sometimes actually helps us move forward doesn't by an means make my statement unfair. Ferrioli and all the other knuckle-dragging neanderthals fighting this make my statement completely accurate and fair. I am certainly grateful that there are at least some Republicans with some integrity.

        Our problems in this country have NOTHING to do with Republicans not getting enough respect.

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            Well you should at least acknowledge that your criticism of my original comment was off-base before you make more inaccurate claims.

            Nobody said that Oregonians who oppose this bill are unworthy of representation. Complete nonsense.

            Your reaction is right out of the Republican playbook. Conservatives get called out for consistently acting reprehensible, and then they claim that their being unfairly criticized simply because they disagree. Whatever anti-environment, anti-choice, anti-labor position they take has nothing to do with a lack of integrity, their character, etc.,…they just disagree. News flash: political positions are arrived at through one’s beliefs/morals/principles/values…people don’t just magically come to particular conclusions about the world. These values/principles matter and they define who you are. That’s a fact.

            So let’s get something straight negative feelings about the GOP/conservatives is about a difference in values/priorities. The claim that I feel he way I do simply because they disagree with me is utterly ridiculous and unsupported. I disagree with my friends, my wife, and progressives on this very site nearly every day but don’t claim they lack integrity. The GOP/conservative’s long ugly well-documented record of obstructing human progress is what has led to my beliefs.

            You remind me of the Democrats who following Texas Republican Joe Barton’s famous apology to BP, talked about how he was a nice guy but they really really disagreed with him. He’s not a nice guy…he’s a corporate prostitute…and frankly we need a lot more people to start telling the truth instead of whining about a lack of civility or unfair treatment of conservatives. But guys like you got in front of the camera/on the blog and give respect to the disrespectful and protect the deplorable…so bipartisan though. Please save your GOP apologist rhetoric for someone else Sal.

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              Well, I can tell you this: If I were a Republican who is on the fence on this issue, I would be really persuaded to vote for the bill based on your comments. In particular, I found the "knuckle-dragger" reference highly persuasive.

              I'm just curious whether you believe that your approach differs in any meaningful way from a Limbaugh or Palin acolyte?

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                and if you were persuaded to vote in a particular way based on the comments of a biased person in a blog's comments section, shame on you.

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      Jason Atkinson is a Republican. He is the cosponsor of this bill. He gave excellent testimony. It doesn't help convince Republicans or anyone else to support this bill by calling opponents d-bags. We need everyone we can get to support this bill and respectful dialog is the way to do it.

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    I've traveled extensively in Africa and South America. Along with Coca-Cola, thin plastic sacks are ubiquitous: on the ground, in the trees & water, even blowing through the hallways of public buildings. I wrote an article about it for "iPhone Life" magazine:

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      Jason Atkinson, co-sponsor & very right-wing R, testified that he was recently in S.Africa and they have banned these bags. have you ben there recently? if they can do it, no excuse for us not to.

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    The most important thing about this bill is that it will help Oregon's economy. Approximately 1,000 Oregonians work in the paper bag manufacturing industry and over 60% of paper bags sold in Oregon are made in Oregon. Zero plastic bags are made in Oregon.

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      2nd most important thing, Jon. the environmental impacts are far greater. we can make up the jobs elsewheres; we can't make up for trashing the planet. (well, we can, but going extinct is a poor choice.)

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    My wife and I have been using reusable bags for several years now. And guess what? Neither of us is sick! :)

    This is a very sensible bill, and I'd challenge anyone who hasn't yet used reusable bags to try. They are bigger and more durable, and they reduce waste.

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      But Jason, as a conservative don't you think government needs to stay out of your personal life? Shouldn't big government just let the free-market work it's magic?

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    Apparently there's a vortex twice the size of the state of Texas swirling in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where plastic garbage goes to swirl around in near eternity, building in size daily. This is just one result to our beautiful planet that plastic bags among other things bring us. a floating collection of trash known as the Plastic Vortex. It's an accumulation of plastic debris swept into the Pacific — whether directly from beaches or flowing out of rivers — and carried by equatorial currents into a swirling pattern to one spot between Hawaii and the mainland U.S.,8599,1914145,00.html#ixzz1DbZ9cIqk

    Apparently Ford Motor company is now making a plastic substitute made out of soy bean foam for its seats and consoles in their new cars. It's totally biodegradable. I wonder why sacks from that kind of thing can't be made.

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    The tax on the alternative (paper bags) will impose real and significant costs on Oregon families that are struggling to make ends meet.

    The tax likely would raise between $6.2 million to $14.55 million, depending upon the economic model used.

    Aggregate real disposable income would fall by $2.3 million due to the increased costs felt at the retail stores across the state.

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      First of all Todd, it is not a tax. the nickel goes to the merchant to cover the cost of the paper bag.

      Second, the amount of money raised would be used to purchase Oregon-made paper bags made of Oregon produced materials. It is a benefit that creates jobs in Oregon.

      Third, Cascade Policy Institute, the champion of market solutions should realize that including the cost of the bag explicitly in the customer's grocery bill gives them a proper price signal that they can use to make rational choices. Hiding the cost of bags is a subsidy by those who don't use bags to those who do use bags.

      Fourth, if you really want to use a market-based solution you would be advocating to include a real tax to cover the cost of litter clean-up and environmental damage. Instead, the current situation provides a subsidy from the public trust to those who choose to use plastic bags.

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      Todd - it's not clear to me from your "report" (which is a 1.3 page press release) how you modeled the tax and the assumptions you made about how many people would use reusable bags vs. paper bags. Can you provide more details?

      For example, the SMART (sic) model has a nice little flowchart, but did you model the five cents as a "tax" that went to government, or did it follow the arrow it should have to the "firms" box?

      The nickel-a-bag proposed to be outlaid goes to grocers, not to the government. That money, in turn, is likely spent to buy more Oregon paper bags. The Oregon paper bag producer then hires more people, who then spend money locally, and that has a multiplier effect in the local economy (see that little "hire L, K" in your own flow chart).

      Or are all my assumptions about your modeling effort wrong?

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      and we know, of course, there are zero costs associated with the plastic bags.

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    You can see photos of the problems caused by plastic bags that Jeff Murray talks at!/album.php?aid=270037&id=62422416794

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    The jobs argument makes zero sense.

    By that same economic "logic", we should ban everything not produced in Oregon and somehow Oregonians would be better off.

    Besides not one advocate of the bill could accurately say how many jobs would be created by a protectionist policy.

    I did testify with a dynamic economic model showing job losses and increases. The net shows a loss of 277 jobs in 2012 due to increased grocery costs.

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    "Apparently there's a vortex twice the size of the state of Texas swirling in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where plastic garbage goes to swirl around in near eternity, building in size daily."

    The "Plastic Island" does not exist and enviromentalist claims are exaggerated or misleading.

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      Anyone who has spent time on Oregon beaches knows that we have a problem with plastic in our oceans, as evidenced by the large concentrations of plastic particles washing up on Oregon beaches.

      I believe that Dr White badly mis-characterizes the nature of this debate.

      To the best of my knowledge, no responsible person is claiming that there is literally a Texas-sized island of plastic trash in the pacific ocean.

      Rather, there is a Texas-sized vortex that contains high concentrations of the same kinds of particles I see whenever I am at the beach in Lincoln City.

      I challenge any skeptic on this issue to "walk the line" of soft debris that washes up after high tide on any Oregon beach and look for a single square foot on that line that doesn't contain a significant amount of these plastic particles.

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