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The Dripby Mark Reutter8:34 pmNov 10, 20140

Council to hold audit hearing and passes surprise plastic bag ban

30 minutes before a Council vote, the bag bill is rendered unrecognizable

Above: Tonight the Council decided to ban plastic bags rather than assess a 5-cent tax.

The City Council tonight scheduled a December 3 hearing on the city’s bogged-down audit process and approved a ban on plastic bags that wasn’t publicly disclosed until a half hour before the meeting.

Wednesday, December 3, is the scheduled date for three parties to square off before the Council’s taxation committee regarding the first of 13 city department audits.

Chairman Carl Stokes called on the Audit Department, Finance Department, and Recreation and Parks Department to discuss why the accounting issues disclosed in last April’s Rec and Parks audit are still not resolved.

Here is the latest on the situation.

A Likely Veto?

Regarding plastic bags, Bill 14-0372 that called for a 5-cent surcharge on plastic bags used by grocery stores and other retailers was transformed this afternoon into a ban on all plastic bags.

The ban is likely to be vetoed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, ending the Council’s attempt to regulate plastic bags in the name of the environment – an effort that has repeatedly come up against the opposition of retailers and the politically-potent plastics industry.

Just last Wednesday, the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee chaired by Councilman James B. Kraft approved a bag bill whose intent was:

FOR the purpose of imposing a surcharge on certain bags provided by dealers to customers; defining certain terms; providing for the collection and remittance of the surcharge; requiring certain reports; prohibiting certain conduct; imposing certain civil and criminal penalties; providing for a special effective date; and generally relating to a surcharge on plastic bags.

Fait Accompli

But tonight Kraft introduced a four-page amendment that imposed a ban on plastic bags in Baltimore City. The change was announced by Kraft and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young at a press conference 30 minutes before the start of tonight’s meeting.

Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector expressed dismay that the Council would vote on a last-minute proposal without public input.

“Do not do this to the people who live and make a living here,” she said, requesting that the bill go back to committee for a hearing.

But Council President Young brushed aside her suggestion. “It already passed,” he told her.

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