State Lawmakers Vote to Delay 5-Cent Fee on Grocery Bags in NYC, Effectively Killing Bill

State lawmakers have voted to delay the implementation of a five-cent fee on plastic and paper grocery bags in New York City, which effectively kills the bill. Zack Fink filed the following report.

After a vote by the legislature, Governor Andrew Cuomo now holds the fate of the city's grocery bag fee in his hands.

On Monday, the state Senate voted to block the five-cent fee approved by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio last year.

On Tuesday, the Assembly followed suit. It was a highly unusual move since both the Assembly and the Council are controlled by lawmakers of the same party, the Democrats.

"Everybody's on the same page about plastic bags and the effect it has on the environment. The issue is, how do we go about cutting down the use of plastic bags?" said Assemblyman Michael Cusick of Staten Island.

The state Senate was less conciliatory. 

"How foolish is this? I mean, did they really think this was going to work? Did they really think the people of the city of New York are this stupid? It's outrageous," said state Senator Martin Golden of Brooklyn. "And I'm not trying to pick on another legislative body, but this was an overreach, and it shouldn't have happened."

The new bill, now approved by both houses in Albany, delays implementation of the fee by one year. But it would take another vote from the newly-elected City Council in 2018 to impose the fee once again.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie asked the City Council to vote for a one-year delay to show solidarity, but sources say the Council is unlikely to do so.

"Yes, I'd rather they do something on their own, but even though we are going to take up the bill today, it doesn't mean that we can't still work together, and that's what I'm trying to get people to understand," Heastie said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, "Plastic bags are a wasteful scourge on our City. The Council is disappointed the State Legislature has chosen to unfairly single out New York."

Over the weekend, the Council's sponsor of the bill, Councilman Brad Lander, confronted Heastie over the issue, sparking heated tempers.

The bill was immediately sent to Cuomo, which is also unusual. With only a week to go, he must sign it or veto the legislation. His office says it is "under review."

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