City won’t delay July 1 bag ban deadline

A Grocery Outlet employee in Newport bags a customer’s groceries in January 2019. The store is one of several in Newport to be affected by the city’s plastic bag ban ordinance, which goes into effect July 1 for stores 10,000 square feet or greater. City officials talked this week of eventually amending the local ordinance to match HB 2509, the state’s bag ban bill. (Photo by Madeline Shannon)

NEWPORT — The city’s plastic bag ban was on the table for imposing a delay Monday night after city officials batted around ways to react to the state’s newly-passed HB 2509, which bans plastic bags in most circumstances.

Gov. Kate Brown signed HB 2509, or the Sustainable Shopping Act, into law on Thursday and cities across the state are grappling with how to amend their own local plastic bag ban ordinances, if those ordinances aren’t repealed outright. The statewide bill allows cities and counties with their own ordinances to amend local laws to match the language of the state bill, which the Newport City Council debated doing in their regular meeting this week.

“The provisions in the city ordinance do not align in all aspects with the house bill that’s going to become state law,” said Newport City Manager Spencer Nebel during Monday’s meeting.

One action on the table for the Newport City Council was to amend the local ordinance so the comply-by date for local businesses matches the date in the new bill, which requires retailers to comply by Jan. 1, 2020.

Newport’s ordinance required stores larger than 10,000 square feet to comply by July 1 of this year, and Nebel advised in a city manager’s report dated June 17 that amending the city ordinance would eliminate confusion about the differences between the local and state regulations.

“We will ultimately have to make a change in our ordinance to either correspond directly with the state law or repeal our ordinance,” Nebel said during the meeting. “We will, at some point, have to come back to make modifications to the provisions of our ordinance once state law becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2020.”

Some locals pushed back against the delay of implementing the local ordinance, saying some stores already prepared for the July 1 deadline.

“A lot of stores already have signs up, ‘bring your own bag,’” said Consuelo Kammerer, a member of the Newport Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “They’ve been asking me and other people about it and getting ready for it. I think it would cause confusion and I already notice a lot more people bringing bags and getting ready for this.”

Kammerer added with summer winds blowing, she notices a lot of plastic bags polluting the environment.

“I think it’s important to reduce the bags this summer,” Kammerer said during Monday’s city council meeting. “Almost all the businesses have a store in a city with a ban, so it’s not completely new to them.”

Ultimately, city councilors didn’t want to get into the weeds to push off the deadline for the local ordinance, with Councilor Dietmar Goebel saying he and other councilors were called names for their work on the ordinance.

“One person even told us we should be ashamed of ourselves,” Goebel said Monday. “We went through a long process for this ordinance and what we came up with was a good ordinance. I don’t particularly see any reason for changing it at this time.”

While changes to the local ordinance will have to come eventually since HB 2509 is going into effect early next year, changes to the types of plastic bags exempted, as well as the compliance date, don’t have to change here for now.

“We will continue this discussion before the end of the year since we’ll have to come back to this before the state law takes effect,” said City Council President David Allen during the meeting.

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