Tennessee moves to stop cities from banning plastic bags

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee could become the latest state to ban local municipalities from regulating certain plastic bags and utensils.

House lawmakers on Monday advanced a proposal making it illegal for local governments to impose bag bans, restrictions on Styrofoam containers and other disposable products. The bill must now pass the Senate before it can head to the governor’s desk for final approval.

The bill is being debated in the GOP-dominant Statehouse as Memphis and Nashville — the state’s most populous cities that also lean more liberal — have recently considered levying taxes against single-use plastic bags. The plastic bags industry has opposed such taxes, but state lawmakers have been more willing to pre-empt the local governments.

Minority Democratic members opposed the bill, arguing the General Assembly should not bypass local government decisions. However, proponents countered that the bill is vital for businesses because it can be costly when a state has a patchwork of plastic bag policies.

The state currently has no plastic bag ban in place.

Tennessee is one of at least five states where lawmakers are considering pre-empting local governments from taxing or banning plastic bags that are used to carry everything from groceries to clothing and cosmetics, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website. Eleven other states, including Texas, Arizona and Florida, already have similar laws in place, the NCSL said.

The proposal is similar to a separate bill also making its way in the Tennessee Statehouse that would limit the powers of community oversight panels in charge of investigating possible police misconduct. While the state already had two panels in place, lawmakers were moved to get involved after Nashville voters approved a new oversight board in November over opposition from the local police union.

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