Rep. Bob Steinburg says he will vote against bag ban repeal

By on March 27, 2017

 State Rep. Bob Steinburg, whose district includes Corolla, said he will vote against a repeal of the ban on single-use, thin plastic shopping bags by Outer Banks retailers if the bill reaches the floor of the North Carolina House.

“I’ve been fielding a lot of calls, emails and letters, and they’ve been 50-to-1 in favor of keeping the ban,” Steinburg said Monday in a phone interview.

He said he’s not basing his decision to oppose the bill introduced by fellow Republican Rep. Beverly Boswell solely on constituent input, but it has been persuasive.

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“Residents and visitors on the Outer Banks have learned to adjust to it,” since the ban was put in place in 2009, Steinburg noted. “They appreciate not seeing bags blowing everywhere in the bushes and sea oats.”

Steinburg represents the First District, which includes Currituck County, while Boswell is the House member for Dare and Hyde counties representing the Sixth District.

Boswell has not responded to multiple requests by local media outlets, including the Outer Banks Sentinel, Island Free Press, and The Outer Banks Voice to comment on House Bill 271, which she introduced earlier this month.

It would roll back legislation initially instituted for larger retailers on the barrier islands from Corolla to Ocracoke in 2009 and then expanded to all businesses the following year.

The law also requires retailers to offer recyclable paper bags and to give at least a 5-cent rebate for each re-usable bag a customer provides.

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The ban was championed by then-Senate leader Marc Basnight (D-Dare) as an effort to cut down on the use of the bags and promoted primarily as a way to keep the barrier islands’ beaches and waterways cleaner.

Many stores from Corolla to Ocracoke have voiced their opposition to a repeal, while The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce issued a statement against reversing the ban on behalf of its 1,100 members.

Kill Devil Hills and Southern Shores have passed resolutions opposing a roll back. Commissioners in Nags Head and Dare County are also scheduled to vote on resolutions.

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While Steinburg would not speculate if the bill would be blocked in committee, he said he felt that if the bill reaches the full House it would likely be voted down.

Democrats occupy 46 seats in the state House, which Steinburg said would all likely vote against the bill, leaving just 15 Republicans who would have to be swayed against the measure.

The bill does have the backing from the Republican leadership in the House, with majority leader John Bell, IV (R-Craven) and House deputy majority whip John Bradford III (R-Mecklenburg) joining Boswell as primary sponsors.

Boswell’s legislation is an almost mirror image of one introduced in the General Assembly in 2011 that eventually stalled out.

It also matches bills written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, and backed by a petroleum industry group in other states that have tried to roll back or block bag bans.

While he said he understood from a business perspective the cost savings that could come out of bringing back plastic bags, Steinburg said the negatives, including the environmental impact, outweigh them.

“There are more reasons to keep the ban in place than to get rid of it at this point,” Steinburg said.

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