Arizona Legislature to Discuss New Bills Banning Plastic Bag Bans Following Lawsuit

Following last year’s national headline-grabbing news that Arizona passed a law preventing local municipalities from banning single-use plastic bags and other auxiliary containers, the Arizona Legislature once again is scheduled to discuss the topic.

Only this time, they’re planning to do it not for economic or ideological reasons but simply to preempt a possible legal argument against the law.

Shortly after Governor Doug Ducey signed SB 1241 into law, Tempe City Councilwoman Lauren Kuby and The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest challenged it with a lawsuit.

Included in Kuby’s complaint are charges that the Legislature made two procedural mistakes, which she says should render the law unconstitutional.

Arizona law requires that bill address single subjects and have an appropriate name that reflects it content, but SB 1241 lumped together the issues of auxiliary containers and energy benchmarking under the title "Relating to Energy Regulatory Prohibition."

“Single-use plastic bags and energy benchmarking have nothing in common and should have been addressed in separate bills,” Kuby writes in a statement, and “the title of the bill… fails to provide notice that it involves prohibiting cities from regulating single-use plastic bags.”

So in an attempt to avoid this legal battle, state Representative Warren Peterson says he introduced two pieces of legislation that, if passed, would split the provisions into two separate laws.

"How can a Legislature that constantly derides the federal government for getting involved in its affairs tell cities what to do in regard to waste management?” — Tempe Councilwoman Lauren Kuby

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“The lawsuit is already tied up in litigation, and rather than going through [a long court process], we’re just going to run it as two separate bills,” Peterson tells New Times.

He says his two bills, HB2130 and HB2131, are “identical” to what passed last year because this all is simply “a matter of formality…to take away the argument about the single subject.”

Critics of the law — and now of Peterson’s bills – have argued that this effort by the Legislature to “take away local control” is hypocritical:

"How can a Legislature that constantly derides the federal government for getting involved in its affairs tell cities what to do in regard to waste management?” Kuby said last year.

But Peterson says he doesn’t see it that way: “This is exactly in line with my views on limited government and local government,” he says. “We’re limiting government; critics just want to put a spin on that.”

Peterson is scheduled to present his bills to the House at Wednesday morning’s Committee on Commerce meeting and says he expects the measures to pass the House and Senate easily.

Those opposing the bills say they’ve organized a large group of concerned citizens to speak at the meeting about the “negative” economic and environmental effects of the bills.

“These bills are not good for Arizona business, economy or environment,” the organizers write.

“Not only do they limit local control — they crush it.” 

Read Kuby's complaint against the state of Arizona:
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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser