Focus on New Laws: Merchant Bag Bans Prohibited

A provision in an omnibus bill prohibits cities from regulating the types of bags merchants may offer to customers.
(Published Aug 28, 2017)

The 2017 omnibus jobs and economic development policy and budget bill, Chapter 94, contains a provision that restricts local control over the types of bags merchants may offer to customers.

The measure was supported by the Minnesota Grocers Association, Hospitality Minnesota, and the Twin West Chamber of Commerce. During the legislative session, proponents testified that the bill protects consumer choice, preserves the allowable use of packaging that is sanitary, and will help businesses control costs.

Details of the law
The provision, found in Article 8, section 14, creates Minnesota Statutes, section 471.9998, which explicitly prohibits local units of government from banning the use of paper, plastic, or reusable bags for packaging of any item or good purchased from a merchant, itinerant vendor, or peddler. The measure also explicitly allows merchants, itinerant vendors, and peddlers to offer the option of providing paper, plastic, or reusable bags for packaging.

Language that would have prohibited political subdivisions from imposing any fee or tax on the use of paper, plastic, or reusable bags for packaging was not included in the bill that was signed by the governor.

Chapter 94 was signed into law on May 30, and the new law pertaining to bag regulations became effective May 31, 2017. Existing ordinances that would be prohibited under this section became invalid as of the effective date.

Opposition
The measure was opposed by local control advocates, including the League of Minnesota Cities, who argued that local elected officials should be able to implement policies that best serve the health, welfare, and safety of their constituents. Environmental groups, claiming disposal of plastics is harmful to the environment and some habitats, also opposed the bill.

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