Conservative Group Wants To Preserve Freedom Of Choice -- Paper Or Plastic, That Is

Model legislation would bar cities from instating bag bans.

Model legislative language proposed at a recent meeting of a conservative policy group would prevent cities and other local governments from banning or taxing disposable food containers and other packaging.

The American City County Exchange, or ACCE, is an offshoot of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative, free-market organization that brings together lawmakers and business interests to draft model legislation aimed specifically at local governments. ACCE launched last year, and held its second annual meeting in San Diego on July 22 and 23. At these meetings, ALEC and ACCE members develop model language for lawmakers to easily adapt and introduce in their local settings.

The model language dealing with disposable food containers and bags, which was provided to The Huffington Post by a conference attendee, would require that any restrictions come from the state, rather than city or municipal government. 

The language includes a variety of containers, such as disposable bags, boxes, cups and bottles made of cloth, paper, plastic and extruded polystyrene, and would prevent local governments from both banning and taxing them.

"The municipal level of government often is the best place to address matters of importance to local residents. Businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions within a state that have different regulations, however, find it difficult to comply with said regulations. This leads to increased costs for consumers," the resolution summary says. "As such, it is the intent of this resolution to ensure that auxiliary container bans or taxes are administered at the state level, as the uniformity of regulation affects businesses and consumers statewide."

Several major cities have recently moved to ban polystyrene foam containers. New York City banned them earlier this year, after collecting 28,500 tons of the material last year. The city government in Washington, D.C., also approved a ban last year, which will take effect in 2016. Seattle and San Francisco have banned the products as well, requiring that restaurants and food trucks use recyclable or compostable to-go containers instead.

A number of cities and counties across the country have also imposed fees or outright bans on plastic or paper bags. See a list of those locations here.

Jon David Russell, a town councilman from Culpeper, Virginia, and the director of the American City County Exchange, told HuffPost that this is a draft version of the policy that was amended at the meeting and is not yet final. "The exact language will not be ready for a couple months because it needs final approval before it becomes a model policy," he said.

"The purpose of this proposed model policy is to provide a counterpoint to local ban ordinances," he said. "It is our belief that consumers should have choices on how they transport their goods from the store to home and should not be restricted by governments."

Legislation to bar cities from instating restrictions on plastic bags passed in the Missouri Legislature in May with support from groups including Americans for Prosperity and the Missouri Retailers Association, but Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it on the grounds that it interfered with local control.