Politics & Government

'We don't like them meddling in our business': Locals in SC capital to oppose bill

State legislators want to stop towns and cities from banning plastic bags, but a group from the Grand Strand is headed to Columbia to oppose the legislation.

The S.C. Senate is voting on the bill H.3529 Wednesday morning, which would prevent local governments from issuing "any regulation regarding the use, disposition, sale, or any imposition of any prohibition, restriction, fee imposition, or taxation of auxiliary containers."

If the bill gets passed, any cities or towns looking to add a plastic bag ban — like the City of North Myrtle Beach — will not be able to do so. Last month, North Myrtle Beach city council members discussed the idea during a budget retreat.

But those that already had a plastic bag ban in place before Jan. 31, 2018 will not be affected by the bill.

Members of the Chirping Bird Society, an organization based in Pawleys Island whose mission is "to help spread the word about the devastating effects of plastic," will be voicing their concerns to senators.

"Local governments need to be in place to make local decisions," said Myrtle Beach resident Corinne Hellyer, a member of the Chirping Bird Society. "These plastic bags aren't needed. Fishermen don't want to catch a bag at the end of their line, you don't want to drive down the street and have a bag blow up on your windshield. They are everywhere, it is an infestation."

Goffinet McLaren, co-founder of the Chirping Bird Society, said the bill is a violation of home rule — the right to self-govern — and stressed how bad plastic bags pollute our oceans.

"We do not want a ban on bans, we should be encouraging a ban on plastic bags statewide," McLaren said. "Plastic in the ocean is already at a crisis point. We don't need any more plastic in the ocean. Plastic is lethal in the oceans."

Surfside Beach Town Council Member Julie Samples — who worked with officials to ban plastic bags in Surfside Beach — said she is opposed to the legislation as well.

"I do not like the idea of someone from the Upstate dictating what we on the coast do," Samples explained. "They don't live here, they don't understand it, they don't know it. We, as voters, elect local representatives to represent us and we expect the local leaders to be able to make decisions based on what's best for the people who live here."

Samples said the bill would prevent local governments from making its own decisions.

"I think it has more to do with home rule than I think it has to do with anything else," Samples added. "There's more than just the plastic bag ban. I get that they're tying it to that, but that's taking away the authority of local leaders who are elected by the people to make decisions based on our community. I think it's important that we talk to our legislature to let them know that we don't like them meddling in our business."

House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, who voted in favor of the bill, did not return a request for comment to The State newspaper.

The State reports that those who support the bill, say regulating plastic bags and other food containers at the local level will lead to higher costs for businesses.