Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced on Monday a bill that would ban single-use carryout plastic bags statewide.
According to the governor's office, the bill would "ban the provision of single-use, plastic carryout bags at any point of sale."
"Garment bags, trash bags and any bags used to wrap or contain certain foods" would be exempt, according to the governor's office.
The governor says the announcement comes in response to the findings of a task force on the environmental impact of the bags.
The state says the ban will reduce waste and environmental impacts.
If passed, the ban would go into effect on January 1 of next year.
Ten cities, towns and villages in New York state already have plastic bag bans in place, according to the governor's office. The city of Long Beach and Suffolk County on Long Island have a fee in place for single-use plastic bags.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had recently called for a statewide ban on plastic bags.
But Cuomo's proposal has no legislative sponsor, environmentalists are split, and a fellow Democrat is non-committal:
"I appreciate him taking the leadership to look at this, and we'll look at the bill," State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.
Even Cuomo's own state panel recently found more cons than pros when it comes to banning single-use plastic bags, writing "plastic bag bans do not always equate to reduction in plastic bag use."
The sponsor of the city bill to add a fee, Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander, says Cuomo's move won't incentivize reusable bags. He argues stores will just get around the law by thickening plastic bags or offer more paper bags, which are often not recycled.
"It sounds like good policy because we like to get something for nothing. But we can reduce waste — this is pretty simple. We don't need disposable throwaway bags, whether they're paper or plastic, every single time we go to the store," Lander said.
Lander sees election year politics at work.
As it happens, Cynthia Nixon was in Albany on Monday for an environmental rally, although before Cuomo's announcement.
"There certainly seem to be, in the last month, a number of issues on which Gov. Cuomo has reversed himself rather startlingly," said Nixon, Cuomo's Democratic primary opponent in the race for governor.
A Cuomo spokesman said there is no connection between Nixon's appearance and the ban bill.
Indeed, Cuomo and de Blasio have been talking about the bag ban in recent days.
"This proposal would create a uniform standards across the state, and it would eliminate the local option," Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David said.
The timing of Cuomo's proposal also raises questions about whether he is serious; the state budget already passed last month, denying him that leverage.
In addition, state lawmakers are expected to leave Albany within two months and possibly not return until next January.