Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says he will sign law that temporarily blocks local plastic bag bans

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday he plans to sign a bill into law that would temporarily ban local governments, including Cuyahoga County, from setting local bans on plastic bags and other single-use containers.

DeWine in December said he opposes the proposal to ban local bag bans. But he said Tuesday because the bill expires after 12 months, and because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic, he’s been convinced to support it.

“My general principle is, unless there’s a compelling reason why we need uniformity throughout Ohio that we should stay away from telling local units of government what to do,” he said. “They’re elected by the local citizens, they’re accountable to the local citizens and if the local citizens don’t like them, they can get rid of them.

“So unless there’s a compelling reason to do it, I would normally veto this bill. But we are in the COVID period, and I think it makes sense during this period of time to have that uniformity and assurance that people will have the ability to use Styrofoam containers, to have carryout containers and to use the plastic bags.”

If he gets another bill next year, DeWine, a Republican, said: “I probably won’t sign it.”

Last week, the Ohio House passed House Bill 242, with most of the chamber’s Republicans voting ‘yes’ and most Democrats voting ‘no.’ The bill already had cleared the Republican-controlled Senate, with senators amending it so that it expires after 12 months.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. George Lang, described it as a “pro-business” measure that will promote uniformity across Ohio for grocery stores and other companies that operate in the state. Lang, a Southwest Ohio Republican, also said it would protect the interests of a plastic-bag manufacturer in his district, one of five in the country.

The bill is a response to local governments across Ohio moving to ban single-use plastic bags, including in Cuyahoga County, which is particularly concerned about Lake Erie. In a recent study from the Rochester Institute of Technology, researchers estimated the lake includes 381 metric tons of plastic, much of which originates in city streets and makes its way into the lake via storm drains.

Opposition also has come from local governments who say it erodes their home-rule powers. The bill is just the latest in a long list of examples of Republican state legislators in Columbus acting to pre-empt laws passed by local government officials in Cleveland.

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