5-Cent Plastic Bag Fee Slated to be Postponed, Less Than 2 Weeks Before its Start

The New York State Assembly announced Friday afternoon that it will pass a bill to delay the implementation of a 5-cent plastic bag fee in the city. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Next week, the state legislature is set to postpone the implementation of a 5-cent bag fee that was scheduled to take effect on February 15.

The delay will be for one year, clearing the way for more public hearings on what has turned into a contentious issue.

The state has the jurisdiction to supercede the city on the issue, and last month, the state Senate voted to nullify the City Council legislation, which was signed into law last year by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The delay technically avoids the appearance of the largely-Democratic state Assembly officially overturning the will of the Council.

Proponents of the bag fee say it's designed to reduce litter and help protect the environment.

De Blasio faced a grilling on this issue from state lawmakers when he testified in Albany earlier this week.

"While we understand the environmental concerns and the reasons for it, we, at least many of us in the Assembly, have concerns with that and the cost it is going to be for some of the people who are rather challenged financially in the city of New York," said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto of the Bronx.

"This is the right thing to do to break with the status quo that we are in right now. Plastic bags no longer have a place in our lives," de Blasio said Monday. "I absolutely respect your question, but I would not encourage delay."

Leading the charge against the fee is state Senator Simcha Felder, the Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans. He says the fee amounts to a regressive tax.

"The issue is whether we have to be punitive every time that there is an issue," Felder said. "And that's the way things go regularly. If government doesn't have a way to fix something, no problem. Tax. No problem. Ticket. No problem. Fine."

The Assembly plans to pass its bill Tuesday. The Senate could pass its bill delaying implementation as early as Monday. But the law does not automatically take effect in February 2018 if no further action is taken. The City Council, which will be a new group at that point, must pass their bill again. 

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