Michigan’s Public Act 389 preempts local governments that ban, restrict, or place fees on plastic bags. The new law was signed by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley (R) this week while Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is on vacation. The Michigan Restaurant Association expressed approval of the bill. The association’s vice-president of government affairs, Robert O’Meara, told local news, "With many of our members owning and operating locations across the state, preventing a patchwork approach of additional regulations is imperative to avoid added complexities as it related to day-to-day business operations."
Washtenaw County, which is home to one of the wealthiest cities in the Mitten State -- Ann Arbor -- had passed an ordinance imposing a 10-cent surcharge on paper and plastic grocery bags that was to go into effect in 2017. Jennifer Eyer (D), a Washtenaw County Commissioner, told Michigan Radio that the new state law "[puts] the priorities of business over the concerns about the environment, and doing what’s good for the environment."
The fees generated by the Washtenaw County ordinance would have been divided between retailers and government. Grocers, for example, would have kept 20 percent of the so-called “eco-fees” while the remaining 80 percent -- and any fines for violations -- would go to county government to fund its Solid Waste Management Plan. The latter is seeking to reduce waste being transferred to landfills. Washtenaw County was hoping that implementation of the ordinance would have funded another part-time or full-time county employee.
The county estimates annual plastic-bag waste-management costs exceed $200,000 for the two publicly owned recycling centers. Washtenaw County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi (D) told the Michigan Senate Commerce Committee this year that plastic bags were jamming equipment at a recycling facility and blowing away at landfills. Rabhi will soon be sworn in as a representative in Michigan’s lower chamber. He will represent Ann Arbor, which is home to the prestigious University of Michigan and one of the most progressive cities in the state.