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Bag-tax bill makes a comeback

The House of Delegates’ Environmental Matters Committee on Friday heard legislation that proposed a 5 cent tax on disposable bags distributed in stores throughout the state.

Under House Bill 1086, cross-filed in the Senate as S.B. 576, stores would be allowed to keep 1 cent of each deposit. Stores offering a rebate to customers who provide their own bags would retain 2 cents from each transaction.

The remaining funds would be divided among the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the counties for the purpose of improving environmental programs.

The bag tax proposal, known as the Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2013, is not new to Annapolis. Lawmakers in recent years have grappled over the cost the bill would impose on low-income residents, particularly in Prince George’s County and Baltimore.

Last year, a similar state-wide bill stalled in the House Economic Matters Committee, which will also consider the 2013 version. Similarly, the Prince George’s County delegation failed to advance a local bill that proposed a 5 cent bag charge specifically within the county.

Only Montgomery County and the District of Columbia currently require a bag tax; bill supporters tout the success of both programs in generating revenue and reducing litter.

Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry addressed the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland in favor of the bill last month.

According to the Department of Legislative Services, the District’s bag tax raised $2 million in annual revenue over its first two years and cut disposable bag consumption by 50 percent. Revenue from the tax went to protect the Anacostia River and other troubled waterways.