To ban or not to ban, that is the question facing the Texas Supreme Court that will hear oral arguments in Laredo Merchants Association v. The City of Laredo. The merchants association is arguing that a ban on single-use bags by the city is illegal because an existing state law regulating solid waste disposal pre-empts it, according to an article in the Texas Tribune on Jan. 11.
Several cities in Texas stand to gain if the challenge to these bag bans is successful, including Austin, Fort Stockton and Port Aransas. Bag bans have pitted local government against state government, specifically regarding the Texas Health and Safety Code, section 361.0961, “which states local governments may not ‘prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law.’”
Given that Texas has a history of supporting the autonomy of local governments, the idea that the state could overturn a ban on plastic bags put in place by municipalities raises the hackles of many Texans. Attorney Christy Drake-Adams filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Texas Municipal League and the Texas City Attorneys Association supporting the city of Laredo, on the grounds that “siding with the merchants would represent a swift departure from Texas’ history of supporting local governments,” said the Texas Tribune.
“There just seems to be a trend that the state wants to consolidate power in the state’s hands,” Drake-Adams wrote in the article. “They don’t want the federal government telling them what to do, and yet they want to tell local governments what to do.”
It would seem that having local bag bans would create a bit of confusion throughout the state. If Laredo bans plastic bags, does that mean someone from a city that allows plastic bags cannot enter the city limits of Laredo with a plastic bag? Texas is a mighty big state, and to have bans on plastic bags in certain towns or cities but not the entire state would create havoc.
“In the Laredo case, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is calling on the court to affirm the lower court’s ruling and eliminate plastic bag bans across the state,” said the Texas Tribune.