A key provision of Santa Fe's plastic bag ordinance might be eliminated before the new law takes effect. The city has been preparing for the upcoming bag ban, set to start Feb. 27, but now a legal challenge stands in the way.
When City Council approved the plastic bag ban last summer prohibiting retailers from distributing most plastic bags at the checkout, it did so with a provision that required stores to charge a 10-cent fee on paper bags as an alternative. The paper bag fee, which would be pocketed by businesses affected by the rules, was designed to encourage city residents to shop with reusable bags.
But in recent weeks, the city attorney's office found that 10 cents actually exceeds the cost of a paper bag, which essentially makes the fee unenforceable.
"It could be interpreted as a tax rather than a fee," city Councilor Peter Ives says.
A new tax would require further council action, so for now Ives' fellow District 2 city Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger is planning to introduce an amendment to the plastic bag ban that would drop the fee. Wurzburger says her main intention is to make sure the plastic bag ban isn't delayed.
The amendment is scheduled for a city Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 21.