Santa Fe city officials made late-night, last-minute changes to its new rules on plastic bags last night, but as of today, stores are no longer permitted to offer them at the checkout.
City Council voted around 11 pm to drop a mandated 10-cent paper bag fee to ensure that its plastic bag ban would go into effect on time.
City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who was the only councilor to oppose the plastic bag ban ordinance approved by city council last August, didn't pass up the opportunity to gloat about the foresight of his previous "no" vote.
"I hate to say it, but I told you so," Trujillo told the governing body late in the night.
Still, that didn't stop the plastic bag ban from going into effect at midnight, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Councilors also approved what they called an "implementation period" for the next 30-days, during which rules won't be strictly enforced.
When City Council passed the bag ban a half year ago, it included a provision that would have mandated businesses to charge a 10 cent fee on paper bags. The reasoning behind the fee was to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags instead of paying for paper ones, which in many cases are less environmentally-friendly than plastic bags.
But the city attorney eventually advised the city that it didn't have authority to mandate a paper bag fee without raising taxes, making the ban technically unenforceable. The paper bag fee was meant to be collected and pocketed by individual businesses, not city government. The loophole would have left the city unable to enforce the ban on time. City councilors say they'll revisit the issue within a year.
Though he said he agreed with the general concept of the ban, Trujillo voted against the ban in August because he claimed that it unfairly exempted certain businesses from having to participate in it. (Restaurants, for example, are still allowed to bag take-out meals in plastic under the ban.)
"Plastic is plastic and for some reason we don't see it that way," he said.
In a tedious council meeting that went from 5 pm to 11 pm with several items on the agenda, the councilors seemed apt to vote on exempting the paper bag fee with little deliberation. Still, Trujillo took another opportunity near the end of the discussion to again show us that he was right all along.
"I'm still going to vote no, just to be consistent," he said. "You missed the mark."
In preparation for the ban, the city purchased about 10,000 free reusable bags to distribute to residents. “Bag to Differ” reusable bags are still available and can be picked up at the Environmental Services Division building located at 1142 Siler Road. For more information visit: www.bagtodiffersantafe.com