State legislators pledge effort against NYC’s 5-cent plastic bag fee

The 5-cent bag fee is set to go into effect Feb. 15.

New York state legislators on Sunday asked city lawmakers to reverse a bag fee set to go into effect next month that would charge city residents a nickel for every plastic bag they get while shopping.

The 5-cent bag fee, set to go into effect Feb. 15, was initially delayed after being passed last year. The legislation was stalled when members of the state legislature threatened to override it last summer.

Now, they are once again making the same promise.

“These bags are reusable. They’re probably more reusable, used more often, over and over and over again, than anything else,” state Sen. Simcha Felder said, standing on the steps of City Hall. “To suddenly drive New Yorkers out of their mind by taxing them over and over again, nickel and diming them … isn’t there anything more important?”

Felder is helping spearhead the effort to pass legislation to defeat the bag fee. He said the State Senate passed a bill several months ago preventing the tax, but it stalled in the Assembly as members there agreed to negotiate with the City Council on a compromise.

Felder said a vote will be held in the State Senate on Tuesday, with a vote in the Assembly to follow soon thereafter.

The current state legislation to reverse the fee is sponsored by Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans in the State Senate, and by Assemblyman Michael Cusick, a Staten Island Democrat.

Councilman Brad Lander observed that the Council has already compromised with the state, including agreeing to charge 5 cents instead of 10 cents per bag, and pushing back the implementation of the bill. Money collected from the fee would go to retailers.

“When this law goes into place on Feb. 15, when people go to the grocery store, they’ll bring reusable bags,” Lander said. “And we can get rid of the 10 billion single-use plastic bags we’re currently sending to landfills, that we see in our trees and our storm drains.”

For his part, Mayor Bill de Blasio has shown support for the legislation.

“The Council passed a bill that struck the right balance,” Raul Contreras, a City Hall spokesman, said in an email. “It reduced reliance on single-use bags and incentivized the use of reusable bags while safeguarding consumers with logical exemptions to protect low-income New Yorkers.”

Similar regulations have been imposed in other cities across the country, including Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

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