Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Doggie Bags

The City Council is calling on Governor Paterson to veto the state's plastic bag bill-legislation that effectively overrides the city's "tougher" plastic bag ordinance. As NY1 reports, Councilman Peter Vallone blames, who else, the "special interests," for this alternative state bill: "In the middle of the night, without notice to anyone, Albany passed a bill which protected, basically, the supermarkets and the special interests, without saying a word to anybody, and which guts our bill."

Give us a break. Without going into any great detail, the city's bill will have absolutely no real impact on getting New Yorkers to recycle plastic bags, or reduce their use; there's no incentive in the law for customers to do anything different. There are provisions, however, that would make the city's stores further targets for regulatory abuse-fines for non compliance are sure to come as the municipal budget runs short of funds.

As the Gotham Gazette reports, the state law would be less onerous for city stores: "The Albany bill, which is awaiting the governor’s John Hancock, would exempt stores under 10,000 square feet and also weaken the city’s enforcement powers, said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. — the city bill’s primary sponsor. The Albany bill would also exempt certain types of plastic bags."

Vallone, feeling comfortable with his characterization of local business, went on to reiterate the negative portrayal: "“You can have the real law in New York City and have the special interests run Albany,” said Vallone." Well, these so-called special interests, Peter, are disappearing in NYC precisely because of the city's taxing and regulatory policies. Insuring their protection is insuring that local supermarkets can continue to grow and thrive here-supposedly a policy goal of the mayor and the council. What's special interest about that?

Aren't the environmental groups behind the legislation-organizations with little or no concern for business health-also special pleaders? Let's get real. The alternative state bill doesn't mean the end of the world. Both the city and state plastic bag legislation are feel good measures that will have little or no impact on the health, safety or environment of New York.

The current controversy is a tempest in a teapot that deflects attention away from the city's policy confusion. In the process, however, businesses that are vital to the city are getting more regulatory strangulation that will make it harder to do well here.