Barring Plastic Bag Bans, Another ALEC Law Takes Aim at Local Democracy

The pay-to-play model of government advanced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) scored another victory this week. On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Senate voted along party lines to approve a bill that would prohibit local communities from issuing their own rules on plastic bags and other containers.

This is part of an emerging national trend.

Preventing local governments from banning, charging a fee for, or otherwise regulating plastic bags is part of a national strategy by corporate interests and groups they fund, like ALEC to override progressive policy gains at the city and county level.

Similar state “preemption,” or state intervention, measures have gone after popular city measures to increase the minimum wage, require paid sick leave, ban fracking, and bar discrimination.

The Wisconsin bill, AB 730/SB 601, was introduced by ALEC legislators including Reps. Rob Swearingen, David Craig, Mike Kuglitsch, David Murphy. ALEC legislator co-sponsors include Sens. Frank Lasee, Chris Kapenga, and Devin LeMahieu. (Through ALEC, corporate lobbyists get an equal vote with state legislators on ALEC task forces considering “model” bills that are priorities to the corporate legislative agendas of the special interests that fund ALEC or underwrite trips by ALEC legislators to resort meetings where they are wined and dined.)

In Wisconsin, no city had adopted a plastic bag ban to address the proliferation of the bags used to carry groceries or other goods, even though some such bags can take hundreds of years to degrade if left in the sun (and may never degrade if put in a landfill).

Nationally, Local Governments Are the Vanguard in Addressing Plastic Waste

An estimated hundred billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. annually, but only about 12 percent of them are recycled, making them a significant waste-disposal problem for towns and cities.

In addition to the cost of burying billions of disposable containers in landfills, plastic bag litter often ends up in…

Read more