Bill prohibiting cities from regulating, banning certain containers heads to Oklahoma House

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A bill moving through the Legislature prohibiting cities and towns from banning or taxing certain containers is now in the hands of Oklahoma House lawmakers.

Senate Bill 1001, authored by Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, heads to the Oklahoma House for consideration after passing the Senate by a vote of 35 to 9. The measure applies to 'auxiliary containers' made of material such as a cloth, paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminum and glass.

"Any auxiliary container can be from the styrofoam boxes that you take your food phone from the restaurant to the cardboard box that is delivered to the store to be purchased, the plastic its wrapped in," Leewright told News 4. "All that’s contained in the auxiliary container definition."

According to Leewright, 16 other states have similar legislation in place.

"You can imagine, with our population base, with really two larger cities controlling with most of the population, if just one of those cities was to ban, let’s say, cardboard… you have a distributor, a food that ships their product in cardboard… [that] has to change for the larger port of the population. You can imagine, for the rest of the state, prices would either go up, or they wouldn’t distribute that product anymore," he said.

Graphic provided by the Oklahoma Coalition for Uniformity of Commerce

The Oklahoma Coalition for Uniformity of Commerce sides with Leewright.

Recently, they released a graphic showing an example of "items being regulated at the local level throughout the country" such as a cups, lids, straws and bowls with 5 cent fees.

"The Oklahoma Coalition for Uniformity of Commerce supports SB1001 as it is a pro-business, pro-consumer freedom, pro-free market legislation that protects manufacturing jobs, prevents overregulation and protects the right of consumers," a statement to News 4 said.

Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman described the graphic as misleading.

"It’s very misleading because you can avoid the 5 cent bag charge by bringing your own bag," Boren said. "It’s not a forced tax on everybody because it’s a tax that could be avoided by everyone."

Boren was one of nine Senate lawmakers to vote against the bill, telling News 4 it was a "huge encroachment" on local control. The city of Norman, for example, is eyeing a possible ordinance limiting plastic bag usage.

According to a city spokesperson, the proposal for a single use bag ordinance has been in development on the committee level. The committee will continue to garner public input.

"The initiative shifted to what a lot of communities do, is to have some kind of economic charge either through a tax or a required charge by the local businesses," Boren said. "We (Norman) have a reputation of being very progressive on environmental policies and this bill, we feel, is targeting that initiative and trying to throw cold water on our local value system that we have taking care of the environment."

If the bill passes the House and is signed into law, it would go into effect July 1. A full copy of the bill can be found here.

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