‘Paper-or-plastic’ bill not in the bag, yet

  • By Amy Daybert Enterprise editor
  • Thursday, January 24, 2008 1:21pm

The phrase, “paper or plastic” may become obsolete if a bill sponsored by Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, passes during this year’s legislative session.

If enacted, the bill would require grocery stores stop using checkout bags unless they are made of recyclable paper, compostable plastics, textile materials or reusable plastic. After Jan. 1, 2009, grocery stores that used prohibited bags would face a fine of up to $500 per day. The stores would also be eligible to claim a credit against the litter tax by providing free or subsidized bags of textile materials.

A public hearing on House Bill 2424 on Jan. 16 “went very well” according to Rep. Chase.

“A lot of businesses are saying we have to go slow here and some are saying we’re already getting rid of them,” she said. “We’ve decided we’re going to work on it over the interim and try to find acceptable substitutions.”

Some additional alternatives according to Chase, may one day involve water bottles that are composed of corn. Chase said she uses a bright yellow coffee cup made of corn on a regular basis and sees the idea as a possible acceptable alternative for plastic bottles.

“We’re trying to grow the economy, we’re not trying to put people out of business this is innovative way of doing that,” she said. “We’re having fun with (ideas) but we’re also very serious. If we’re going to cut our carbon we have to change our ways.”

Chase said she expects it will take multiple sessions to push her bill through the Legislature.

Chase has also received attention for sponsoring a bill that would place new taxes on carbon in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the attention came after the state Office of Financial Management (OFM) released a report that reflected a $26 billion price tag for the particular bill.

“You ought to add about four to five more zeros to the right to get the price of the carbon and the cost of future generations to clean up for our way of life,” Chase said. “I don’t think we have any kind of moral or ethical right to shift the cost to future generations.”

Although supportive of citizen initiatives, Chase said she is concerned Initiative 960 which requires the OFM determines cost to taxpayers over a ten-year period of any proposed legislation that would raise taxes, does not allow for a discussion of a bill’s benefits.

“There won’t be a comparable discussion of the benefits and that’s no way to run a state,” she said. “That’s one of the shortfalls of the initiative.”

Some are skeptical whether her carbon-tax bill will ever pass. House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, said last week that the bill never had a chance to come to vote and called it, “Dead on arrival.”

Still, Chase said she’s happy people are becoming accustomed to alternatives such as a carbon tax and not only considering a cap and trade for businesses.

“Why couldn’t we have tax relief on property tax?” she said. “Suppose we just decided to tax the carbon? If I can get the discussion going, I’m very happy.”

Rep. Chase saw one of her sponsored bills pass the House of Representatives along with five other housing bills on Jan. 18. The bill addressing the regulation of conversion condominiums aims to protect renters who are faced with losing their apartment because an owner decides to convert to condos by promoting earlier notification, relocation assistance and construction noise protection. The first reading of the bill was in February 2007.

“We’re trying very hard to try and save people’s houses and on the one hand we have,” she said on Tuesday. “It’s not everything I want to see but I think it’s a start.”

The area’s median income of $60,000 does not mean low-income residents can convert to living in condominiums costing $350,000 according to Chase. “We are trying to address the different facets of this problem,” she said. “… People have a right to shelter, food and clothing as a human right. We as a society are not making that happen. By our policies we are creating homelessness.”

Talk to us