Tennessee bill to stop local plastic bag bans heads to gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill to ban local governments from regulating certain plastic bags and utensils.

The Senate passed the legislation Thursday. The House already approved it, so it next heads to Republican Gov. Bill Lee.

The Republican-led General Assembly is reacting to recent consideration by Memphis and Nashville, the liberal-leaning, most populous cities in the state, of proposals to levy taxes against single-use plastic bags in order to cut down on waste.

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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