Bag the ban

The campaign to promote recycling and limit single-use plastic bags was well on its way in 2019 and 2020. Large companies like Giant Eagle and Heinen’s stopped offering plastic for packing up groceries and encouraged patrons to invest in reusable bags.

Several local governments concerned about the environment passed laws limiting single-use bags, including Orange Village, Cuyahoga County, Cincinnati and Bexley.

But state lawmakers, looking out for the interests of large retailers and plastics industry groups, limited the power of local governing bodies. Gov. Mike DeWine last year signed House Bill 242 that instituted a one-year ban on municipalities from taxing auxiliary containers such as plastic bags, cans, cups, kegs or other single-use packaging for transporting goods.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Stores, concerned that reusable bags might spread the virus, went back to single-use plastic sacks.

Now, with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, stores are again allowing reusable bags. Talk of restoring local plastic bag bans has resurfaced in the statehouse.

The Ohio Senate last week quietly added a provision to the state budget bill that would make the temporary ban on taxing plastic grocery bags permanent.

Environmental experts agree that plastic bags, unless recycled properly, generally end up in landfills and waterways, causing danger to plants and wildlife. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that about 14.5 million tons of plastic containers and packaging ended up in municipal solid waste areas in 2018.

In Cuyahoga County alone, about 319 million plastic bags are thrown away. One expert pointed out that plastic grocery bags are used for an average of 12 minutes and then tossed.

Sadly, the rates of recycling plastic in the U.S. are dropping. Efforts must be made to reverse this trend. During negotiations for the final budget bill to be approved by June 30, the House and Senate must eliminate this provision and allow local communities to make their own decisions.

Where was Rep. Grendell?

State lawmakers last week ousted Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, from the Ohio House by a 75-21 vote. This action comes about a year after the former House speaker was indicted in a $61 million bribery scheme linked to a billion-dollar bailout of two nuclear power plants.

Mr. Householder deserves his day in court. But it’s clear to us that Mr. Householder had to be ousted last week to secure the integrity of the House.

Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, who sponsored the resolution to expel, said the former speaker’s actions tarnished the reputation of the House and qualified as “disorderly conduct,” as required by the Ohio Constitution to remove a member. Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said this was a chance to stand up against corruption.

But where was state Rep. Diane Grendell? The Chester Township representative was one of three who failed to cast a vote on the expulsion issue. We are not surprised.

Shortly after Mr. Householder’s arrest in July of 2020, the House stripped him of his leadership post. Rep. Grendell also failed to cast a vote in that matter, saying she was caught in traffic.

She did manage to arrive on the House floor in time to vote with 53 others to table a motion to expel Mr. Householder last year.

Rep. Grendell owes her seat to Mr. Householder. In May of 2019, the former speaker ignored the recommendation of the Geauga County Republican Executive Committee who wanted South Russell resident Dennis Galicki appointed to the seat vacated by Sarah LaTourette.

The last time the House expelled a member was 1857, making last week’s vote significant. Rep. Grendell, tell your constituents where you stand on this pivotal issue.

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