Legislation would have taken power away from city to regulate use of bags on its terms
CHAMPAIGN — Mayor Don Gerard on Sunday applauded Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of a bill that would have prevented Champaign from dealing with plastic bags on its own terms. Gerard said local officials can now resume discussions about limiting the use of the bags at stores within its borders.
Quinn on Sunday vetoed Senate Bill 3442, which would have prohibited manufacturers from selling plastic bags in Illinois unless that manufacturer is registered with the state and pays a fee to do so. The legislation also would have required manufacturers to submit a plan to support the collection and recycling of those bags.
But the bill contained another provision that city officials were more concerned with and would have removed local governments' authority to ban or place a fee on plastic bags. In March, a majority of Champaign City Council members said they wanted to explore doing exactly that.
Had Quinn signed the bill, it would have stopped that discussion in its tracks.
"I just thought it was egregiously out of line," Gerard said.
City officials had held off on that initiative while they waited to see what the governor would do. But if the votes in the two legislative houses stand — 38-15 in the Senate and 72-44 in the House — there would be enough support for the bill to override Quinn's veto.
If the veto stands, Gerard said it could be time to continue the discussions in the Champaign City Building of banning or placing a per-bag fee on plastic bags at checkout lines.
"I suppose it is time for us now to continue those discussions," Gerard said. "There was actually pretty substantial support to move forward with something, to do something."
City officials earlier this year presented the program to city council members as a way to deal with plastic bag litter throughout the city. By forcing retailers to charge a fee — something like 5 cents per bag — or by banning the use of plastic bags altogether, they said residents would use fewer bags when they check out at stores.
In March, six of nine Champaign City Council members wanted to continue exploring the issue.
Supporters of the state bill and opponents of the city's proposal say plastic bag bans or fees do not reduce litter and they cost customers more. Further, they said the state bill would encourage recycling.
But Gerard thinks the removal of local authority for cities and towns to decide what to do within their own borders was the golden nugget for the plastic-bag industry.
In July, he appeared in Chicago with 13-year-old Abby Goldberg of Grayslake to deliver a petition with more than 150,000 signatures of people who wanted Quinn to veto the bill.
Goldberg was trying to pass a plastic-bag ban in her hometown as part of a school project before the state Legislature passed the bill. Had Quinn signed it, her efforts in Grayslake would have been stonewalled.
Gerard said he believes the plastic bag industry was eager to put an end to plastic-bag bans that have been popping up across the country.
"I think it was really underhanded of the lobbyists," Gerard said.