City Of Annapolis Balks At Controversial Plastic Bag Ban

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Several months back, Annapolis Alderman Sam Shropshire introduced O-27-07, a bill that would ban the distribution of plastic bags by retailers in the city of Annapolis. The debate surrounding the issue since then has been nothing short of a circus.

The debate has been fierce. Alderman Shropshire maintains to this day that he genuinely believes this ban to be in the best interest of both the city and the environment. His opponents sharply point out that the evidence is less than overwhelming that plastic bags are even worse than paper bags in the first place, that Alderman Sam is simply pandering for media attention, and that there are much better places to start if you want to improve the environment (such as actually putting recycling bins downtown).

The bill was up for a vote last night, and true to form, the meeting was covered by print and broadcast media. Wow, did they see a show.

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In a weekend news dump, the mayor announced that she would attempt so supersede Mr. Shropshire’s bill with a much tamer plan that wouldn’t ban anything, but instead would create a commission to study the matter further. Wonderful. But as of the start of the meeting, the city attorney was the only one that knew exactly how this was going to be done.

The mayor, along with several co-sponsoring aldermen, introduced 2 versions of the same (new) bill: O-55-07 and O-27-07 REVISED. In doing this, the council never intended to vote on the issue! There is a rule that if a substantive change is made to a bill by an amendment, the bill then has to be pulled and a new public hearing held regarding the substantive changes. By introducing a new bill and calling it a revised version of the old bill, the council guaranteed that such a substantive change existed!

Alderman Shropshire fought the tactic, but to no avail. The council passed a motion to accept the “revised” version of the bill, then immediately passed a motion to declare the changes substantive. The bill was removed from consideration, and the whole process will drag on.

O-55-07 was just a backup plan. If anything went wrong and a vote on the original bill actually happened, the council could still seek political cover by voting in favor of O-55, which appeared later in the agenda. As it happened, this was unnecessary and O-55 was pulled.

As could be expected, this made people crazy. The city spokesman was assaulted (metaphorically) in the hallway by supporters of the ban demanding to know what happened. Despite the fact that such is his job, he was so angry at the council for putting on a worthless dog and pony show, that after the meeting ended, he approached the council and mayor and launched into a tirade! He had to be calmed by the city attorney!

So the result is a lot of angry people, and no resolution to the issue.

For those of you who thought you would be better entertained watching Monday Night Football, for once you were mistaken.

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