© 2024 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bill that would prohibit Kansas cities from regulating single-use plastic bags fails in committee

Nadya Faulx
A bill to prohibit local governments from banning plastic bags and other auxiliary items failed in a legislative committee Thursday.

Kansas lawmakers voted down a bill Thursday that would have prohibited local governments from regulating single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail establishments.

The bill would also have prohibited city and county regulations on straws and other packaging provided at stores. The Senate Commerce committee voted it down.

The bill's failure may mean a Wichita task force can move forward with its recommendation to ban plastic bags from stores.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce requested the introduction of the bill in January because it hoped to discourage government regulation of businesses.

“As you start dealing with cities and counties banning certain products … you’re placing businesses at competitive disadvantages to competing businesses that might be outside of city limits and not subject to those restrictions,” Eric Stafford, a lobbyist with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, said in a Senate Commerce committee meeting.

The Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association and Kansas-based Fuel True Independent Energy & Convenience – an association of fuel distributors and convenience store owners – also testified in favor of the bill.

But some lawmakers said the legislation overstepped the rights of cities and counties to govern themselves.

“It’s disheartening, to say the least, the lack of respect we show the ability of county and city governments that they can make decisions that are best served for their particular communities,” said Republican state Sen. John Doll of Garden City in a Senate Commerce committee hearing this week.

Zach Pistora, a lobbyist with the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the organization also opposed the legislation because it would limit how Kansas communities could respond to plastic pollution.

“We see way too much plastics in the Kansas landscape – in our drainage ditches, along our roads, polluting our cities and towns,” Pistora said. “We just feel strongly that we need to do something about it. And many communities want to do something about it.”

Pistora said that though the bill failed in committee, the subject of the bill could be brought up as an amendment on the Senate floor.

Wichita established a plastic bag task force in 2020 to consider banning or charging for single-use plastic bags at grocery and retail stores.

In January, task force member Brett Prather announced at a Wichita Sustainability Integration meeting that the task force would recommend instituting a ban on plastic bags over a period of a year to 18 months.

Prather said doing so could reduce waste, offer health benefits and save taxpayers money on plastic bag cleanup costs and waste processing costs.

A 2021 Wichita litter study found 47% of litter data collected was plastic.

The city of Wichita is currently conducting a survey regarding residents’ views on plastic bags. Another survey by the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 2021 found 71% of respondents agreed with banning plastic bags, though the sample was not representative of Wichita’s population.

Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.