Virginia Beach City Council members defer vote on plastic bag tax until September

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Posted at 11:32 AM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 23:24:31-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Members of the Virginia Beach City Council have deferred the motion to add a tax on plastic bags for another 60 days.

Residents were previously given the opportunity to weigh in on the proposal to charge people 5 cents per plastic bag they use at grocery and convenience stories as well as pharmacies. Of that, a cent would go to the business and four of the cents would go to the city to use for environmental purposes, like helping distribute reusable bags in underserved communities.

During its July 5 meeting, the council voted to defer the vote after a report is made to better evaluate the possibility and get more input on how the city would enact the law. They also want to educate the public on the importance of recycling and keeping our areas clean.

The proposal is aimed at keeping the bags out of waterways. Advocates say the bags often wind up in the water and are eaten by wildlife, particularly turtles, which can harm them.

“I'm also looking at a way to do a major public information education program, because I think this is something that everybody wants. They want a clean Virginia Beach - they don't want our waterways to be polluted. We do have multitudes of volunteer organizations that work to keep this, and I would really like to see input from everybody as much as we can," said Councilwoman Barbara Henley after the July 5 vote.

Some residents support the idea, while others say it's not the moment to tack on another tax for Virginians bearing the weight of inflation.

The General Assembly passed a law in 2020 allowing localities the ability to add a fee to plastic bag usage. So far, nine localities have passed ordinances to add fees to bags.

"It makes so much sense to me that I cannot imagine anybody not supporting it," Councilman Guy Tower, who represents the Oceanfront, said during a meeting in late June.

The council was originally scheduled to vote on July 12, but that vote has been set aside until Sept. 6. If adopted, it would go into effect in Jan. 2023.

"What we're hoping to do is use this bag fee as a vehicle to help transition from plastic to reusable bags," said Jim Deppe from Lynnhaven River Now. "Single-use plastic bags are either thrown away or end up in the environment and we want to get plastics out of the environment."

While that proposal is debated in the city, another statewide proposal continues to face scrutiny. During the state budget amendment process, Gov. Youngkin once again proposed suspending the state's 26-cent gas tax for three months, but once again, his efforts failed.

"Democrats failed to put politics aside for the good of Virginians - for a third time," Youngkin tweeted.

"The lead Republican on the finance committee voted with Democrats, next time try making a proposal that can even get the votes of your own side," Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) responded.

Related: Wegmans to remove plastic bags at Virginia, North Carolina stores