The repeal of the plastic bag ban on the Outer Banks is looking more certain.
Originally introduced as a separate bill, the plastic bag ban repeal was eventually added to a package of 19 additions or changes to environmental laws, which was approved by the State Senate on Wednesday evening, and approved by the State House on Thursday morning.
The bill – House Bill 56 – was first filed in February 2017, but had hit an impasse at the end of June.
It was brought back to life with the addition of a more prominent plan to give $435,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington to deal with a pollutant called GenX, which was recently identified in the Cape Fear River waters.
The Plastic Bag Ban Repeal takes up just one line of House Bill 56, and reads “SECTION 10.(a) Part 2G of Article 9 of Chapter 130A of the General Statutes is repealed.”
An original section that reduced the size of the Marine Fisheries Commission from nine to seven seats by removing two at-large positions was also removed from the newest version of the bill.
The 2009 plastic bag repeal ban was the brainchild of then-Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight of Dare County as a way to cut down on litter, as well as the deaths of offshore sea turtles which often pay a visit to the Outer Banks to lay their eggs along the seashore. (When in the water, plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish, and are therefore commonly mistaken as food by sea turtles and other marine life.)
The ban requires stores to use paper bags, and also to provide a $.05 refund per bag for customers who bring their own reusable bags to an individual store.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association supports the repeal, but local organizations including the Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce have both publicly spoken out against repealing the ban.
The bag ban repeal resurfaced due to extra work days scheduled by the General Assembly in the late summer / early fall – a move that was prompted by the federal court ruling that the 2011 district maps were illegal, and had to be redone by September 1, 2017.
With the extra workdays, the General Assembly also revisited bills that had passed both the House and Senate but had stalled, which included House Bill 56.
Now that it has been approved by the state House with 61 ayes versus 44 nos, the bill will be sent to the desk of Governor Roy Cooper for his signature.
For more information on the current status of House Bill 56, refer to http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2017&BillID=h56.