Republican lawmakers who decry the "Californiazation" of Texas are hoping court action will end single-use bag bans in at least a dozen Texas cities while stemming other local laws that they believe erode individual and economic liberties.
The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation held a gathering Thursday where organizers said the Texas Supreme Court could ultimately rule to eliminate bag bans. The title of the gathering, "The Californiazation of Texas: Plastic Bag Bans," appeared to be inspired by a 2015 speech by then-Gov.-elect Greg Abbott condemning a patchwork of local rules that he said erode "the Texas model" -- such as bag bans in Austin and Laredo, and Denton's prohibition against fracking, which was later overruled.
The bans on single-use bags are aimed at curbing litter and driven by environmental concerns, the Austin American-Statesman reported. But conservatives, with the support of the bag industry, have argued the Legislature must step in because such bans are an affront to liberty.
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"Is the state Legislature going to become the City Council of Texas?" asked Robin Schneider of Texas Campaign for the Environment, which supports bag bans like Austin's.
A state appeals court in August tossed out Laredo's ban on store-provided checkout bags. The ruling applied to the 32 South Texas counties in the San Antonio-based court's district. Parties in the case have appealed to the all-Republican Supreme Court and conservatives hope a ruling will end bag bans statewide.
In its ruling, the 4th Court of Appeals said Laredo's bag ban was pre-empted by a state law that says cities cannot "prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package." Store-provided bags, the court ruled, are containers under the law.
At least a dozen Texas cities have enacted a bag ban or implemented a bag fee. Austin's ban, implemented in 2013, is designed to reduce litter and the amount of waste sent to landfills. A city study in 2015 found that Austin residents use nearly 200 million fewer plastic bags annually than they did before the ban.